Campus: CSU Northridge -- November 2, 2005

CSUN Names Lobby After Pair who Believed that Everyone is Obligated to Help 'Repair the World'

Cal State Northridge officials have dedicated a lobby in the Student Services Building/Bayramian Hall in honor of a San Fernando Valley man, and his wife, who was a quiet supporter of the university's Center on Disabilities.

The Witkin Lobby, named for the late Gloria and Marty Witkin, is located in CSUN's Center on Disabilities on the first floor of the building. Marty Witkin, who passed away in March 2004, bequeathed a $350,000 portion of his real estate holdings to the center. The center each year hosts an international conference featuring assistive technology for people of all ages and with a variety of disabilities. Gloria Witkin died in 1987.

"We were very touched and impressed with generosity of the Witkins," said Mary Ann Cummins-Prager, director of CSUN's Center on Disabilities. "Their bequest is a living gift that will enable us to continue our efforts to enhance the services we provide our students."

The university created an endowment with the Witkins gift. Cummins-Prager said the center plans to use the money to support the center's efforts to encourage students with disabilities to go to college and to help provide those students, once they are at Northridge, with the resources to ensure they can obtain their degrees.

"We will use the money where we see the greatest need for our students, she said. "The money from this gift can truly make a difference in a student's life."

Gloria and Marty Witkin grew up in Chicago during the Depression and married when Marty completed his overseas service with the Navy in World War II. They started a family in Chicago, and later moved to California. Marty Witkin opened a hardware store in San Fernando and worked hard to make his business a valuable mainstay in the community. After a few years, Gloria Witkin opened Oak Tree Travel in Encino, which also grew into a thriving business.

Cummins-Prager said the Witkins believed deeply in the Jewish concept of "Tikkun Olam"--that everyone is obligated to help "repair the world." This understanding led Marty Witkin to Cal State Northridge's Center on Disabilities and its annual assistive technology conference.

The internationally-acclaimed gathering takes place each spring at hotels near Los Angeles International Airport. It features assistive technologies for people of all ages and with a variety of disabilities. The conference also includes workshops and informal opportunities to explore how cutting-edge technology can help people with disabilities.

University officials said they were surprised to learn of Marty Witkin's bequest. Marty Witkin had visited the assistive technologies conference over the years, but never indicated that he intended to leave the university or the center anything after he died.

"I guess he was impressed by the good things we are doing," Cummins-Prager said.

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, (818) 677-2130,

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