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Thanks & Recognition: William and Dorothy Rees

eNews Edition: Spring 2021

Contributed by Elizabeth Altman

The University Library is thankful for the generosity of Bill and Dorothy Rees. The couple has dedicated a series of gifts to support electronic text collections for students studying in the fields of computer science and engineering. These thoughtful gifts honor the memory of their son, John “Teddy” Rees, a CSUN alum.

Bill and Dorothy Rees
Bill and Dorothy Rees

Dorothy, originally from Minnesota, came to California from Park Ridge, Illinois in pursuit of a job at Universal Studios in the late 1960s. Working as a stenographer at Universal and other studios, she became familiar with all aspects of the motion picture industry, while living at the legendary Hollywood Studio Club. A friend suggested she apply for a job at Hilton Hotels Corporation in Beverly Hills, where she ultimately met her husband. Bill, originally from Pennsylvania, earned a law degree at University of Michigan Law School before coming to California to work in franchising and hotel development for Hilton. Although Dorothy had a policy of never dating anyone she worked with, she made an exception for Bill. They were married in 1977 and moved to Studio City.

Bill and Dorothy love Studio City because of its central location. “It’s close to Dodger Stadium, museums, shopping, everything,” says Dorothy, “we wanted to raise our children here.” Their children, Teddy and his younger sister Diane, both attended the Waldorf School Highland Hall in Northridge. Diane attended high school at Immaculate Heart in Hollywood, while Teddy was at Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks.

From an early age Teddy was interested in computers and loved to play video games, and his friends would pile into his room to play with him. As he grew, he got interested in the inner workings of computers, and in high school, taught himself programming languages like C and assembly. “He was a real computer geek,” says Bill, “if we had a problem on the computer, he could just come and tap a few keys and fix it.” Teddy was also a skilled poker player – he became an expert at Texas Hold’em because the mathematics of the game was fascinating to him. Dorothy remembers he was a good bluffer.

After graduating from Notre Dame, Teddy started attending Pierce College, where he got excited about engineering. He later took time off to pursue a job opportunity in Idaho. He returned to California after a year and a half and set his sights on a computer science degree instead. He took the necessary prerequisites at Valley College, where he excelled academically. Teddy then transferred to CSUN, rented an apartment close to campus, and visited his family on weekends.

Having achieved his B.S. in 2009, Teddy went on to pursue a Master’s degree to help boost his career prospects. He had been approved to proceed with his proposed thesis project, when he tragically passed away in 2011. In high school, Teddy had suffered an episode of acute pericarditis that resulted in lingering heart trouble. The combined stresses of his academic work, additional freelance work for a startup, and the death of a family member weighed on him, and he suffered a heart attack in his sleep.

Thanks to a supportive letter from his thesis advisor, Professor Jeff Wiegley, CSUN awarded John “Teddy” Rees his Master of Science degree in Computer Science posthumously. “We couldn't have expected any more from a large university,” notes Bill. The Reeses wanted to give something back, and a library gift afforded the opportunity to donate to a specific need: learning materials for engineering and computer science students. Bill recalls, “the library website made it easy to contact someone, and the people who facilitated our gift were very accommodating during the process.” Currently they are funding a subscription to ACM Digital Library database and the ScienceDirect Computer Science eBook Collection. “The nice thing about it is when you go to the database description, you see a line down there that says the gift was made in Ted's honor and that he earned two degrees at CSUN and that the family wants to give something back. We’re hoping that someone else sees that and is moved to do the same,” says Bill. Dorothy adds, “If Teddy were alive and we could ask him, he would have approved. That was what was most important—it had to be something he would want.”

The Reeses are pleased to be supporting access to electronic research resources, which can be cost-prohibitive to students. Access to resources has been especially important during this past year of campus closure. The couple has visited the Library and attended Friends of the Library events in the Gohstand Leisure Reading Room, and have come to appreciate the space. We look forward to seeing Bill and Dorothy again when the Library can open fully to the community. Their tribute to Teddy in support of CSUN students is a special treasure that we in the Library are so very grateful for.