FeaturesField Starts Writing Scholarship in Honor of Stepfather

El Vaquero Staff Writer

It takes a special type of person to turn a family tragedy into something that helps others. Mona Field, who teaches Political Science at GCC, is that type of person.

On June 13, a shocking event changed Field and her family’s lives. Her stepfather, Robert Lees, was brutally murdered in his Beverly Hills home. At 91, Lees had been a successful Hollywood screenwriter, who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era of the early 1950s.

In tribute to Lees, Field has established on campus the Bob Lees Memorial Scholarship for Future Writers. The scholarship fund has been started with $5,000 donated from friends and GCC colleagues.

Lees, who wrote the scripts for many of the Abbott and Costello comedies of the 1940s, and later for such TV shows as “Rawhide,” was one of the first screenwriters to be blacklisted in Hollywood during what was called “the Communist scare.”

From the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, many Hollywood directors, screenwriters and actors were prevented from working in films because of their previous support of the Communist party or organizations that were alleged to be Communist fronts.

The period was named for Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who chaired the Senate Internal Securities Committee. The senator was a vociferous anti-Communist who was eventually censured by his fellow senators.

Lees “was a man of principle, from the McCarthy era to the hours before slaying,” said Martin Miller, an L.A. Times staff writer. “He believed in fairness and generosity.”

Field recalled him as a man who believed in civil liberties and personal loyalty. Everyone who met him, she said, would have been glad they did. Lees was a man who trusted people before they earned his trust. He never locked his car or his house.

“Unfortunately, Lee’s mistake was trusting the person who took his own life,” said Field.

He was “a very special person,” the political science professor said. “I was 30 years old when my mom [Helen Colton] met him. We had a good relationship. Not only did we get along fine, but he also had a good relationship with my two daughters.”

Born in San Francisco, Lees at first aspired to become an actor, but turned to screenwriting after landing only small parts in movies.

From the late 1930s he was always interested in social causes, Field said. He worked for better conditions of farm workers across the state, long before they had a union to fight for their rights.

Field, who is a trustee on the board of the Los Angeles Community College District, has taught at GCC for 30 years and is author of the widely used textbook “California Government and Politics Today.”

“My goal in life is to help people realize that they have rights and that they should fight for those rights,” said Field. “Another goal of mine is to see a world of peace.”

To apply for the Lees scholarship, students must show an interest and talent in writing and be recommended by a GCC writing instructor.