A Special Gift for Mother’s Day

4 min read
Patricia Akkad at center with piano students of Inna Faliks and Dean Eileen Strempel (to her left)

What are you getting your mother for Mother’s Day? A card, chocolates, flowers, perhaps a bottle of champagne?

Well, what about endowing a scholarship in her name?

This year, two alumnae of UCLA’s school of music had scholarships endowed in their names by their sons. Dana Gordon established the Diane K. Gordon Memorial Undergraduate and Graduate Scholarships in Ethnomusicology. Malek Akkad established the Patricia Shirk Akkad Piano Scholarship Fund to support a piano performance student.

“It’s a permanent remembrance of my mother,” said Dana Gordon, whose mother Diane K. Gordon passed away in 2020. She earned four degrees from UCLA—a bachelor’s and master’s in music, a doctorate in ethnomusicology and a master’s in library science. Her doctoral research on the influence of folklore in modern English opera led to significant publications and citations in academic journals.

“Her time at UCLA was very important to her,” said Gordon. “She loved her professors, she made many friends, and she always recalled it as a formative experience. What she learned gave her tremendous satisfaction and enjoyment throughout her life.”

Malek Akkad echoed these sentiments. His mother, Patricia Akkad, graduated from UCLA and worked in arts administration. “Music was such a big part of her life, and of mine. There was always music on, whether it was LPs in the house or on the radio in the car. She had such diverse tastes.”

For Akkad, granting a scholarship in his mother’s name was about the lifelong example she had set for him. “She always taught me the value of giving back, which she always did. She has been a very private person, and that’s worthy of lasting recognition.”

Patricia Akkad graduated from UCLA in 1964 and conducted graduate-level research before taking a job in arts administration. She worked for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s legendary music director Zubin Mehta.

“He [Zubin Mehta] would let me drive his burgundy Rolls Royce,” recalled Patricia Akkad. “I used to take it back to Palms, where I lived in those days, and give the neighborhood kids rides.”  Akkad still plays piano for choirs around southern California, when she is not conducting charitable work in retirement.

Both Dana Gordon and Malek Akkad admit they were not the most musically inclined sons growing up.

“I was fairly rebellious,” said Gordon. “We had a baby grand in the living room, and my mom would practice by playing scales. I felt like a cat being confronted by a vacuum cleaner. I spent most of my time bodysurfing, skateboarding, and playing basketball.”

Gordon would go on to earn a bachelor’s in chemistry from UCLA before completing a doctorate at Yale and then taking a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. After winning a tenure-track position at Brandeis University, he changed careers and joined a law firm.

Akkad remembered fidgeting through classical concerts that his mom took him to. “I was a rambunctious kid. I spent most of my time skateboarding through Venice, Brentwood, and the UCLA campus. All very innocent, of course.”

Akkad followed his father, Moustapha Akkad, into the film industry. He graduated from USC and then worked as a producer and director. He also founded the philanthropic sCare Foundation, a nod to his highly successful horror films.

Both Gordon and Akkad reflected fondly on the profound role that music played in their lives, despite their youthful rebelliousness.

“My mother loved Bach above all else,” said Gordon. “But there was always classical music. She took me to concerts downtown and at the area colleges. The operas made a big impression on me—Carmen and La Boheme.”

Gordon recalled how his mother became an accomplished amateur pianist and opera singer, a worldly woman who traveled extensively, and who maintained an active scholarly career while also raising him. She was a woman of refined tastes, whether in music and the arts or food and wine.

“She loved champagne,” said Gordon, “not just sparkling wine, but the wines that come from Champagne [the AOC], especially G. H. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge.” Gordon noted that his mother was also fond of Schramsberg, the Napa Valley winery founded in 1862 that produces some of the best sparkling wines in America (G. H. Mumm was founded in Rheims in 1827). Hers was a lifetime of cultural connection and appreciation, something that she had cultivated in university.

“UCLA really was the best time of her life, it touched her forever,” said Dana Gordon. “I would love to have the Diane K. Gordon Memorial Scholarships in Ethnomusicology facilitate someone having a similarly memorable experience in the School of Music.”

Patricia Akkad learned of the scholarship last fall. Malek had invited her for a day out to UCLA under the pretext of seeing a concert. They visited a piano class, where she was surprised with the news that her son had endowed a scholarship in her name.

“I heard one of the piano students perform, and it was absolutely amazing,” said Akkad. “I would go and listen to any of those students any time.”  Akkad spent the day touring the School of Music. “Walking through the practice rooms was like experiencing an orchestra all its own,” she said.

Malek was thrilled to establish the Patricia Shirk Akkad Piano Scholarship Fund. “My parents were highly creative, as good an example of parents as one could ask for. And I couldn’t think of a better Mother’s Day present than for her to know that future students will get support the way she did when she studied piano at UCLA.”

Patricia Akkad acknowledged just how touched she was by the gift. One problem, though. “My son thought I was a piano major, but I was an ethnomusicology major,” she said, laughing. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for the students. I had to work while I was in college, and I know how hard it can be. I’m glad this will help out School of Music students.”