When the University of California, Irvine welcomed its first students in 1965, the new campus was an incongruous sight: Eight futuristic buildings had sprouted from unsullied ranch land. But to its founders, the barren setting was fertile ground for exploration that attracted visionary scholars primed to make their mark on the world.
Speaking before UCI’s first graduating class in 1966, mathematics professor Bernard Gelbaum said, “In your memorable year at Irvine, you have been a group of adventurers brave enough to forego the comfortable paths to success, daring enough to gamble with untried ideas and eager enough to cause a quiet revolution in university outlook.”
Those 14 grads happily wore the mantle of trailblazer, as did 1,580 fellow students, 120 faculty and 240 staff who, that first year, put planning into practice and opened a university that ultimately exceeded even their soaring expectations.
FINDING THE WAY
In those early years, students plodded through dust to the only dining hall in Gateway Commons. When it rained, they “surfed” on food trays down the muddy slope from the fine arts construction site. Pat Glasgow ’68 remembers Chancellor Dan Aldrich saying he wasn’t going to build more concrete paths for a while. “First I want to see where you walk,” Aldrich explained in that way he had of encouraging students, staff and faculty to stamp out their own routes to the future.
Back then Mesa Court was the only residence hall. Every resident had a key and, counter to tradition at other universities, there was no curfew. Water polo was literally the only game in town. In October 1965, almost 2,000 fans jammed the gymnasium pool area to watch Randy Howatt ’68 score the first athletic point for UCI in the Anteaters’ 22-6 victory over Cal Poly Pomona. Today UCI supports 23 NCAA Division I sports, and holds 21 national team championships.
The pristine nature of the new campus proved an irresistible draw for many of the country’s finest academics. Then-Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Jack Peltason insisted that each faculty member be outstanding in teaching as well as research.
“The quality of the initial faculty was astounding,” says F. Sherwood Rowland, Donald Bren Research Professor and founding chair of chemistry. “From the ranks of the 30 original faculty in physical and biological sciences came three Nobel Prizes” (in 1995, Rowland in chemistry and Frederick Reines in physics; in 2001, Leland Hartwell at the University of Washington in physiology or medicine).
What was it about a campus that would lead 10 percent of the charter science faculty on track to the Nobel Prize? “There’s something about starting from scratch that appeals to the best people,” says Rowland. “Also letting people go their own way has led to aspects of science that weren’t in the picture 40 years ago,” namely, Irvine’s strengths in synthetic organic chemistry and Earth system science, which, along with UCI’s groundbreaking program in social ecology, have brought numerous UCI discoveries to bear on public policy.
Founding biological sciences Dean Edward Steinhaus departed from tradition and opened the way for founding chair of psychobiology James McGaugh to blend the studies of neurobiology and psychology, which has made UCI the preeminent center for learning and memory research. “We were idealists who wanted to build a university even better than the ones we came from,” says McGaugh. “And we were exhausted by our own enthusiasm.”
Professor Emeritus of History Spencer Olin recalls, “The attitude was one of the privilege of institution building, rather than institution receiving.” Humanities faculty built their school into one of academia’s most respected, with innovative programs like the often-emulated Humanities Core Course and a critical theory program considered one of the best in the nation.
Social sciences Dean James March weathered controversy when he insisted on a strong mathematical underpinning to the school’s programs. This unique approach later attracted the likes of Duncan Luce, recently awarded the National Medal of Science for his work in game and choice theory.
Claire Trevor Professor and chair of drama Robert Cohen was a charter faculty member in what has become the internationally recognized Claire Trevor School of the Arts. “[Founding] DeanClayton Garrison was clear he wanted nothing but the best from us. He acted as if we were going to take over the Earth,” says Cohen. “Yet Garrison was the only one who had real experience. The rest of us were fresh young faculty,” among them, a young artist – David Hockney – and choreographerEugene Loring.
Distinguished faculty of origin could have moved on, but they stayed and attracted more excellent faculty.
As chronicler of UCI for two decades, Orange County Register science editor Gary Robbins says, “UCI founders had a specific strategy. They hired junior faculty with great potential, and some senior faculty who were well established in their fields, then let the campus grow like a plant. And look what happened, $263 million in extramural research funding last year alone.”
TOWN AND GOWN
Trailblazing partnerships with the community, evident even before the campus was built, continue to pay dividends. When The Irvine Company made available 1,500 acres in 1960 for the new UC campus, it was no accident the site was close to burgeoning technology companies. Retired Rockwell ChairmanDonald Beall says, “It underscores the early creative thinking to marry the university and business community for the benefit of this whole area. And it just gets better from there.”
Beall notes that UCI is one of the few places merging information and computer sciences, physical sciences, engineering and arts expertise into digital arts programs, while research in fuel cells is affecting national energy policy. The community gains as well from UCI Medical Center, ranked among the top 100 hospitals in overall performance, and from two professional schools – The Paul Merage School of Business and the School of Medicine, both rated in the top 50 nationwide in their respective fields.
Students today continue to profit from innovative curricula, enhanced by undergraduate research opportunities, campuswide honors classes and a five-year program leading to both bachelor’s and M.B.A. degrees. “The 3-2 M.B.A. program let me overlap my fourth undergraduate year with the first year of a master’s program in management,” says Sepideh Gazeri ’05, the first Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences graduate in the Merage School program. “It has given me a grasp of how my degree is utilized in a business environment and valuable input from professionals in the field.”
The paths to UCI’s achievements haven’t always been smooth. Yet the dauntless spirit of campus pioneers has survived in decades of innovations that solve new problems and create novel approaches to public service, learning and discovery.
UCI Historical Highlights
While space prohibits a more comprehensive listing, here is a timeline of significant campus milestones. More details may be found on the UCI Libraries’ Anteater Chronicles Web site:www.lib.uci.edu/ucihistory.
UC Regents decide to expand UC system, including possible Orange County site
William Pereira engaged to research O.C. sites
Irvine site selected
Gift of land from The Irvine Company
Regents name new campus University of California, Irvine
Daniel Aldrich appointed first chancellor
President Lyndon Johnson attends dedication
Campus opens with founding academic divisions of biological sciences, engineering, fine arts, humanities, physical sciences and social science, and graduate school in administration (later management)
Anteater chosen as mascot
Ansel Adams photographs new campus
Program in Teacher Education founded, later to become Department of Education
Creative writing M.F.A. program, which today has three Pulitzer Prize-winning alumni, launched
California College of Medicine approved as UCI College of Medicine
Department of Information and Computer Science founded, later to become UC’s first ICS school
UCI Alumni Association formed
Program in Social Ecology founded, later to become school
Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, world’s most comprehensive digital library of Greek literature, launched
F. Sherwood Rowland identifies that CFCs destroy the Earth’s protective ozone layer
Campus assigned own ZIP code
O.C. Medical Center and Community Clinic of O.C. acquired, become UCI Medical Center
Steve Scott ’78 wins 1,500-meter run at NCAA track and field championships
First housing community (Las Lomas) opens in area now known as University Hills
Aldrich retires, receives first UCI Medal; campus park named in his honor
Jack Peltason appointed second chancellor
Frederick Reines receives National Medal of Science
Beckman Laser Institute opens
Patrick Hanratty, Ph.D. ’77 donates a copy of Shakespeare’s 1623 “First Folio” to UCI Libraries
Donald Bren Endowment (then called Bren Fellows Program) created
Laurel Wilkening appointed third chancellor
John Wasmuth discovers the gene responsible for Huntington’s disease
Science Library opens
Frederick Reines and F. Sherwood Rowland receive Nobel prizes
University Research Park opens
Campus named to Association of American Universities
Carl Cotman identifies that Vitamin E plays a role in slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease
Chao Family Cancer Center designated “comprehensive” by National Cancer Institute
Ralph Cicerone appointed fourth chancellor
Engineering school named for Henry Samueli
Arts school named for Claire Trevor
California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology established
Dr. Eric Stanbridge develops the first blood tests to diagnose cervical cancer
Francisco Ayala receives National Medal of Science
Frank LaFerla develops the first triple transgenic mouse that exhibits two major symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
Information and computer sciences school named for Donald Bren
Irwin Rose receives Nobel Prize
Hans Keirstead develops human embryonic stem cell therapy that restores greater mobility in animal models with spinal cord injury
Duncan Luce receives National Medal of Science
Business school named for Paul Merage
Michael Drake appointed fifth chancellor
UC’s first online degrees awarded by UCI in criminology, law and society
Arts Plaza designed by Maya Lin dedicated
Genesis of the Anteater
UCI’s mascot has become the most popular, if whimsical, tribute to campus innovation. The “Irvine Anteater” was born in 1965 in a Mesa Court dorm from the not-so-idle minds of Pat Glasgow’68, Bob Ernst ’67 and Schuyler Bassett III ’70. According to Glasgow, he came up with the name and they all scribbled some designs, a Playboy anteater being their initial favorite.
Getting UC officials to accept such an unconventional symbol of university spirit was a battle, recalls former ASUCI PresidentJack Lewin ’67. “They wanted a bear, or unicorn, something more dignified.” But the students weren’t giving in. The anteater had an endearing anti-hero, survivor image they liked, and, after numerous votes, the anteater won by a long nose over the second place choice, “None of these.”
Later Johnny Hart of the “B.C.” comic strip gave permission to mimic his design, and a version of the humpback anteater circulated widely around campus, often accompanied by the onomatopoetic term “Zot” for the sound the anteater makes when scooping up its prey.
Advancing innovation in the region and beyond
“Thanks to UCI, we continue to burnish our global reputation as an outstanding place to live, work and learn. With pursuits as varied as leading Alzheimer’s research, studying the intersection of art and technology, and conducting pathbreaking inquiries in social ecology, UCI has been constantly innovative. For four decades, our university has advanced the cause of intellectual and social betterment for our region, our nation, and indeed the entire planet.”
–Christopher Cox, chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, who represented the UCI community in Congress from 1988 to 2005
Supporting future innovators
“It has been exciting to watch the development and influence of UCI. Partnerships between local schools for student outreach, new medical advancements, scientific technology and such programs as COSMOS for talented high school students in math and science will assure us a workforce capable of meeting the challenge of worldwide competition.”
— Marian Bergeson, a longtime Orange County resident, who has served in both the California Assembly and Senate, and as California’s secretary of education