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Retired, International UCLA Employee Dies at 89

Retired, International UCLA Employee Dies at 89

Maria Wrigley directed UCLA's International Visitors Bureau for more than 30 years.

She was a very familiar figure on campus, so actively involved with placing visitors here.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Jessica Roy, Daily Bruin reporter

Maria Wrigley, 89, died from lung cancer on March 27. She was the director of the International Visitors Bureau at UCLA for 30 years until her retirement in 2002.

Wrigley was born in Vienna, Austria. Her father, Paul Koratz, was an attorney who provided special legal counsel to Louis B. Mayer, one of the founders of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. Because of this connection, Koratz was able to bring his wife, daughter, mother and others over from Austria to escape the Nazis in the early 1940s.

Wrigley married an American in 1944 and had one son, Frank. She originally worked in the legal research department at MGM Studios, then applied for a job with the UCLA International Visitors Bureau.

Wrigley’s job specifically included planning visits and arranging tours for foreign diplomats and other international visitors. Gohar Grigorian, the current program officer for the International Visitors Bureau, said Wrigley’s job included collaborating with the state department and other international agencies.

Grigorian worked with Wrigley from 1993 until Wrigley’s retirement in 2002. Originally, Grigorian was the assistant director of the bureau, and Wrigley was the director of the department at that time. Grigorian said Wrigley, who spoke fluent German and French, had been with the bureau since its creation.

“This office was established in 1966 by Chancellor Franklin Murphy, so she was there from the first day the office was established,” Grigorian said.

Frank Wrigley said his mother was passionate about her job and UCLA, and that she received recognition from the city of Los Angeles for her work.

“She loved working at UCLA and the campus,” Frank Wrigley said.

He added that even after retiring in 2002, Maria Wrigley came back to help out on occasion. He described her as “very strong-willed based on her history, but (with) a great sense of humor.”

Ann Kerr, the coordinator of the Visiting Fulbright Scholar Enrichment Program, has known Wrigley for over 40 years, since Kerr’s husband Malcolm began working at UCLA in the early 1960s.

“She was a very familiar figure on campus, so actively involved with placing visitors here,” Kerr said.

Kerr said Wrigley was a resource for her when she began working at UCLA in 1991.

“She knew everyone in the university. She was very helpful to me when I needed to find research or contacts for Fulbright scholars. She always knew the people to call,” Kerr said.

Kerr described Wrigley as “very international.” In her spare time, Wrigley traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Canada and Mexico.

In 1978, she received a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA.

Her son said she was a woman with many interests.

“She enjoyed golf and walking her dog and her garden at the house,” Frank Wrigley said.

When Wrigley was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006, the doctors gave her four to six months to live. But she beat the odds, living for more than two years after that.

Kerr said Wrigley was overall a pleasure to know and work with.

“She was always involved, always professional, always thoughtful and friendly,” Kerr said.

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