UCLA Lab School community members gathered on September 23 to celebrate the distinguished career and retirement of Dr. Muriel Ifekwunigwe, who served as the school’s health specialist and nurse for more than four decades. To honor that legacy into the future, Principal Norma Silva has announced the establishment of the Dr. Muriel Ifekwunigwe Emergency Fund for Families, which will benefit members of the school community who are facing hardship.
“We wanted to honor the selfless giving and compassion Dr. Ifekwunigwe shared with generations of students, parents, and staff,” Silva said. “From expertly taking care of our children in times of injury and illness to helping with health research to being a source of comfort and wisdom, Muriel has touched the lives of everyone she has met during her 43 years at UCLA Lab School.”
Dr. Ifekwunigwe was born in northern England, where she trained to be a nurse, midwife, and health advisor/educator. For a time, she worked in West Africa, where she was in charge of a nurse’s training school in the Cameroons. She and her husband, Aaron, later moved to Nigeria, where they lived and worked until their lives changed drastically as a result of violent military coups and civil war. They lost their home and all of their belongings, and Muriel and their children moved to England while her husband remained behind to help with relief operations. Eventually, the entire family moved to California, and Dr. Ifekwunigwe came to work at UES in 1973.
Since then, Dr. Ifekwunigwe has been known at the school for her efforts to help families through difficult times. Each year, she gathered funds for members of the school community who needed help purchasing food and other basic necessities as well as gifts for their children at holiday time. It is this part of her work that frequently stands out in people’s minds, said Director of Development Sanam Khamneipur Smith.
“She genuinely cared about the needs of every family and took it upon herself to help alleviate burdens and stresses from their lives,” said Smith. “She gave individualized attention to school families in need, expecting nothing in return. Everyone who knew Dr. Ifekwunigwe remembers her for this. We are delighted to honor her legacy of service and continue her great work through this fund established in her honor. ”
The September celebration included a morning assembly where children shared song, poetry and letters to express their gratitude for Dr. Ifekwunigwe’s guidance and support of the community. In the evening, colleagues, alumni, family, and friends from across the decades came together at a party to celebrate the woman who guided and cared for them.
As a reminder that Dr. Ifekwunigwe will always be a beloved member of the UCLA Lab School family, a white alder was planted outside the UCLA Lab School Health Office.
“For decades, Muriel has been a common thread through people’s lives, uniting the community and embodying the school’s mission,” said Principal Silva. “No matter when you met Muriel or how you are connected to her, she has inspired us all to carry on her legacy of selfless giving and kindness.”
To learn more about the Dr. Muriel Ifekwunigwe Emergency Fund for Families, contact the UCLA Lab School Office of Development at (310) 825-1996. Click here to make a gift.
To see photos from the evening celebration, visit our event album on Facebook.
Photo by Margie Limon