Larry Kugelman

Larry Kugelman, UCI Foundation trustee, former chairman and founding member of the UCI School of Social Sciences Board of Councilors, and founding board member of the UCI Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, passed away on January 14. He was 81.

“Larry Kugelman was a consummate gentleman and remarkable presence in the lives of all who knew him,” says Bill Maurer, UCI social sciences dean. “I will miss his camaraderie, emotional support, and above all his quiet sense of humor. Our task now is to carry forward the lessons he taught us, to selflessly serve others, and to cheer on our colleagues and loved ones in good times and sad times."

Born September 27, 1942 in Hoboken, New Jersey, Kugelman earned his bachelor’s from St. John’s University, MBA from Vanderbilt University and master’s in peace and conflict studies from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. A former seminarian and Peace Corps volunteer in Iran, he held a lifelong interest in social service. For 30 years, he worked in the healthcare industry, a space he felt had considerable room for improvement, and subsequently served in numerous roles including as president and CEO of Cigna Healthcare of California and as CEO and director of Health Plan of America.

Together with his wife Dulcie, to whom he was married for 53 years, the Kugelman’s efforts and programs - from the local Orange County community to conflicted regions in the Middle East - have brought together people with opposing perspectives and viewpoints to learn more effective communication strategies in hopes of finding common ground and ultimately, peace. 

"Larry always struck me as the modern version of the classical 'Renaissance Man,'" says Dave Snow, UCI Distinguished Professor emeritus of sociology and former director of the UCI Center for Citizen Peacebuilding. “In an era of heightened specialization within and across professions, Larry’s biography, accomplishments, and interests transcended boundaries. He was a person of considerable achievement within the corporate arena, but he had a broad set of interests and activities cutting across health policy, conflict resolution, religion, and economics, all driven by his unbridled curiosity and tempered by his compassionate generosity which supported student research and travel at several universities and health and social services for low income and homeless persons.”

In 2001, the couple threw their passion for peace into their work with the UCI Center for Citizen Peacebuilding. In 2007, largely through their work with the Carter Center, they helped bring former President Jimmy Carter to speak at UCI. Around that same time, they established the Kugelman Fellowship Program which has since supported more than 125 UCI graduate students from social sciences, social ecology, and humanities pursuing studies on conflict and peacebuilding efforts around the globe.

“What also made Larry remarkable was not just his generous philanthropy but his sincere engagement with the beneficiaries of his good will,” Snow adds. “In the case of the graduate recipients of the annual Kugelman Fellowships, for example, Larry read and assessed their proposals and routinely made a point of talking with them about their work and plans. As with others, he was an easy conversationalist who had a knack for being there and putting others at ease. These are among the characteristics that made Larry a good friend for many of those who knew him, including me.”

Daniel Brunstetter, UCI political science professor and current Center for Citizen Peacebuilding director, agrees: "Larry was a man of action, present and engaged in the now, and always looking to the future. Mentor, companion in the long-haul that is peacebuilding, and visionary - Larry, in partnership with his wife Dulcie - was adamant about paying it forward by investing in the power of the next generation of UCI students via the Center of Citizen Peacebuilding. From the undergrads of the Olive Tree Initiative to the generations of graduate student Kugelman Fellows, his passion was centered on providing opportunities to cultivate future leaders who could apply what they learned to their communities. Larry Kugelman has touched the lives of many, and from what I can gather as director of the CCPB, those whom he has inspired inspire the lives of many, many more."

Kugelman’s efforts earned him numerous community and campus recognitions, including the Orange County Human Relations Commission 2009 Community Leader Award and together with Dulcie, the UCI Alumni Association 2010 Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Community Members Award.

When the School of Social Sciences launched its Board of Councilors in 2014 to provide distinguished community counsel to the dean, Kugelman became a founding member and later served as chair.

"I was deeply saddened to hear the news of the unexpected passing of our esteemed colleague and my friend, Larry Kugelman. His departure leaves a void that words cannot easily express," says Peter Trepp, chairman of the UCI Social Sciences Board of Councilors. “Larry was a source of inspiration and encouragement to all who had the privilege of knowing him and a great help to me personally. Larry created an environment of camaraderie and motivation on the UC Irvine School of Social Sciences Board of Councilors, making our work together not only productive but truly enjoyable. Moreover, Larry was hugely supportive as I followed him as chairman of our board. He was giving of his time and generous with his insights. I will be forever grateful for his guidance and friendship.”

“Let us celebrate the life of a remarkable leader, mentor, and friend. We extend our deepest condolences to Dulcie and their entire family, and may we find strength in the memories we shared with Larry,” he adds.

In 2019, Kugelman became an active member of the UCI Foundation board, serving as an ex-officio trustee representing the School of Social Sciences. He was appointed as a full trustee in 2023, a role that put him in a campus-level leadership position that broadened his reach to create more positive change in UCI's teaching, research and public service mission.

"On behalf of the UCI Foundation, we deeply mourn the loss of a cherished trustee, Larry," says Brian Hervey, UCI vice chancellor for University Advancement and Alumni Relations and president of the UCI Foundation. "His unwavering dedication and passion for peace building has been a beacon of hope and progress. Larry's remarkable journey with UCI, as a steadfast supporter and advocate, significantly advanced our efforts in societal betterment and peace. His logical, calm presence brought a unique steadiness, guiding us through challenges with unparalleled level-headedness. His impact, deeply felt and appreciated, will continue to inspire and resonate within our community. Larry's legacy of peace and wisdom remains an enduring gift to us all."

Kugelman is survived by his wife, Dulcie, his two sons, Larry and Alex, and five grandchildren. He is remembered fondly by his extended family of friends and colleagues at UCI and beyond.

A celebration of life will be held Saturday, January 27, 2024, at 2:30 p.m. at St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 2200 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Newport Beach, CA. In lieu of flowers, the Kugelman family kindly requests donations be made to the Kugelman Fellowship Program at the UCI Center for Citizen Peacebuilding. Contributions will honor Larry Kugelman’s legacy by fostering peace and positive change:

connect with us


© UC Irvine School of Social Sciences - 3151 Social Sciences Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100 - 949.824.2766