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During his 97 years, Lester Breslow gave of himself in one or more of these ways to those of us who are gathered here today. Each of us in one way or another owe him a debt of gratitude because through his well-lived life he taught us about overcoming obstacles, perserverance in the face of doubt, moderation, the value of family and the rewards that come from a life dedicated to service and passion for your work.
Lester Breslow was no stranger to overcoming obstacles. As a young man he overcame a severe stutter to later become the keynote speaker at his high school graduation and a lifelong, outspoken public health advocate. Born during a time when the average life expenctancy was about 56 years, his perserverance in the face of skepticism helped to usher in our current thinking about the connection between healthy habits and longevity. Today we simply take this connection for granted but his findings were not only revolutionary, they helped to broaden the role of public health from treating disease to preventing it and fueled his lifelong anti-tobacco policy efforts.
We're infinitely fortunate that Mr. Public Health made UCLA his academic home, first as dean of the UCLA School of Public Health (1972 - 80) and throughout the rest of his life, as an active and beloved member of the school's faculty - speaking, writing and motivating students and faculty well into his later years.
As passionate about his family as he was about his professional life, Lester's love for his wife Devra, his children, Norman, Jack and Stephen, his grandchildren and great grandchildren, tell us that Lester never lost sight of what is truly important in life.
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children... to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
Ralph Waldo Emerson