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Sheila Kuehl, Government

  • By Mark Davis
  • Published Apr 1, 2001 8:00 AM

She started her television career in 1950, playing a tomboy on The Stu Erwin Show, but Sheila Kuehl's big break came when she got the role of Zelda Gilroy on the long-running hit The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. As she told Winmagazine.com, Zelda was a revolutionary role in that she was one of the few intelligent young women on television at the time.

"I'd never seen a really smart girl on television before," Kuehl said. "And it really changed my life. It gave me permission to be smart at school."

Kuehl certainly proved herself to be smart, leaving showbiz at age 22 to earn a bachelor's degree in English from UCLA. While she went on to Harvard in the '70s to pursue a law degree, her involvement with UCLA continued beyond her 1962 graduation.

Throughout the past four decades, Kuehl has dedicated herself to the university and student body. She co-founded the Women's Resource Center (now the Center for Women and Men), served as associate dean of students, worked on the Affirmative Action Compliance Committee and taught at the School of Law.

Upon concluding her professorship, Kuehl turned her attention to politics, running for a seat in the California State Assembly. The former actress was elected in 1994, becoming the first openly gay person to serve in the Assembly. Currently, she is a California state senator.

Throughout her political career, Kuehl has worked tirelessly for the issues that she first became concerned with as a UCLA undergrad: child welfare and protection, environmental conservation, public education and civil rights. For her efforts, she has received numerous awards from organizations ranging from the ACLU to the Human Rights Campaign to the UCLA Alumni Association.

Last year, Kuehl received one of the university's highest honors: the award for outstanding public service from an alumnus. Not bad for a former child star.

In 2004, Kuehl was re-elected to the State Senate and has since authored an important health care bill that was signed by Gov. Schwarznegger. In January 2007, she began serving as chair of the State Senate Health Committee. - (Update 1/07)