“F. Sherwood Rowland saved the world. It’s as simple as that.” Time magazine published these words after the UC Irvine founding professor and Nobel Prize-winning researcher died last March at 84. A fiercely independent voice, “Sherry” – as he was known to his many colleagues and friends – left a profound imprint on science and society.

He helped drive the discussion of global climate change with his 1974 discovery that man-made aerosol compounds were destroying the planet’s fragile ozone layer. This would lead to an international ban on chlorofluorocarbons 20 years later, but until his vindication, Rowland faced intense criticism with vast intelligence, unending patience and customary grace.

While obituaries around the world cited his legacy of courageous research and leadership in atmospheric chemistry, the UCI community also honored Rowland for helping build one of the finest modern universities anywhere. His beliefs that research and scholarly activity should not be confined to single disciplines and that the classroom and laboratory must extend beyond campus borders became two of UCI’s core principles.

So it seemed appropriate that only three weeks after Rowland’s passing, Times Higher Education ranked UCI No. 1 in the U.S. and fourth internationally among universities less than 50 years old, lauding the campus for the very ideals of innovation, collaboration and achievement that Sherry engendered.

It has also grown into an academic powerhouse – home to more than 28,000 students, 1,100 faculty and 9,400 staff – with an annual economic impact of $4.3 billion. And it’s a magnet for tomorrow’s best and brightest. More than 76,000 students applied this fall to become Anteaters, one of the highest totals among American universities.

How UCI evolved from an Orange County pasture into a world-class institution is a long and complex story. But it’s one that starts with Rowland, and in his memory, here are snapshots of UCI 2012. As always, it was quite a year.

Student section

The third time’s a charm: UCI once again reclaimed the Guinness world record for the largest dodgeball game: 6,084 ball-heaving, blue- and gold-clad students stormed the Anteater Recreation Center fields Sept. 25 to make history. … Congratulations to Felipe Hernandez, a double major in music performance and political science, who was one of 54 students nationwide to earn the public-service Truman Scholar award. … This year’s commencement offered a number of firsts: the first School of Law graduates, the first business-major graduates and the first Cal Teach graduates. UCI was one of the first universities in the nation to offer the Cal Teach program, in which students can concurrently earn a bachelor’s degree and a single-subject teaching credential. … Of the 51 new law graduates who took the California bar exam, 90 percent passed on their first try, placing the school among the top in the state for bar pass rate. In addition, three other class members who took the bar exam in other states passed. … Coached by UCI business and computer science students, young teens from Irvine’s Rancho Middle School and Anaheim’s Tiger Woods Learning Center honed STEM skills by creating educational smartphone apps to help younger children learn math and science.

Seen on campus

Renowned primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall shared her experiences and her concerns about the threats facing the planet as part of the Living Peace Series. … The popular series also brought to UCI Jordan’s Queen Noor, who addressed education, conservation, sustainable development, human rights and cross-cultural understanding, as well as their application to human security. … During Disability History Week, author, professor and livestock industry consultant Temple Grandin discussed autism and Asperger’s syndrome. … College Democrats at UCI sponsored a Bren Events Center visit by former President Bill Clinton, who stumped for local congressional candidates and delighted the standing-room-only crowd by flashing the Anteater “zot” hand sign.

In the community

In late March, Chancellor Michael Drake and three faculty members embarked on an academic mission to Israel, forging collaborative research agreements and student and faculty exchanges with the country’s top universities. Among the highlights was a visit with Israeli President Shimon Peres to discuss educational opportunities. … As part of the Vietnamese American Oral History Project, student interviewers recorded immigrants’ life stories for archival preservation. The project also spawned a website to provide online resources to volunteers, narrators, students and community supporters. … During a visit to the White House, UCI elder abuse experts launched a campaign to unite generations against the physical abuse, emotional neglect and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. … In response to community concerns about the San Onofre nuclear power plant, the Newkirk Center for Science & Society hosted a panel discussion in October at which industry, civic and academic leaders addressed safety issues, technical matters and policy perspectives. … John Hipp, associate professor of criminology, law & society, and his Metropolitan Futures Initiative colleagues released the first Southern California Regional Progress Report, which revealed that mixed-culture neighborhoods are stronger and safer and that Orange County drives economic growth in Southern California. … Economist Peter Navarro’s film “Death by China” and the movie “Last Call at the Oasis,” featuring hydrologist Jay Famiglietti, each premiered at the Edwards University Town Center. Both professors were on hand for Q-and-A sessions after the documentaries screened. …. Famiglietti also spoke before Congress in July, stressing that major investment in water research and monitoring is needed as the nation struggles to cope with drought. … The Program in Nursing Science opened a nurse practitioner-managed clinic at the El Sol Science & Arts Academy in downtown Santa Ana, providing much-needed training and a window to healthcare’s future.

School news

In July, the University of California Board of Regents established the School of Education at UCI, giving statewide recognition to degree programs dating back to 1967. In August, Deborah Lowe Vandell, chair of the Department of Education since 2006, was appointed the first dean of the new school. … The School of Law faculty was rated seventh among 70 top U.S. law schools (and No. 1 in the UC system) in a scholarly impact scale, an impressive achievement for the young program. … UCI received major multimillion-dollar grants to establish a social computing research center and in continued support of one of the nation’s first systems biology centers. … The Program in Public Health reached a significant milestone by earning accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health. … The Department of Dance honored professor emeritus and legendary choreographer Donald McKayle – known fondly as “the master” – with a tribute at the Irvine Barclay Theatre featuring dancer-actress Debbie Allen and actress-singer Della Reese. … The intimate, open-air New Swan theater staged the first season of what will be an annual Shakespeare festival, featuring reimagined versions of “The Comedy of Errors” and “The Merchant of Venice.” … New books by Jeffrey Wasserstrom, professor and chair of history, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Distinguished Professor of comparative literature, were among 19 fall nonfiction titles The Christian Science Monitor said were worth checking out.

Research breakthroughs

UCI physicists played a key role in the probable discovery of the elusive Higgs boson, a subatomic particle considered important to understanding the existence of all mass in the universe. … Elsewhere in space, astrophysicists revealed that an excess of gamma rays from the center of the galaxy may provide evidence of dark matter, and Earth system scientist Jeremie Mouginot and colleagues found a strong indication that an ocean once covered part of Mars. … Mechanical & aerospace engineer Lorenzo Valdevit and fellow researchers at HRL Labs and Caltech received Popular Mechanics2012 Breakthrough Award for creating the world’s lightest metal. … Engineering faculty offered a sneak peek at their innovative three-dimensional manufacturing efforts at the campus’s National Center for Rapid Technologies, or RapidTech, the only nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated to the hands-on training of community college and university students for the next wave of advanced manufacturing. … Earth system science researchers reported that vast stores of carbon in U.S. forest soils could be released by rising global temperatures, intensifying climate change. … Informatics professor Gloria Mark found that being cut off from work email reduces stress and allows employees to focus better. … Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory researchers discovered intriguing variations in the brains of people who can effortlessly recall every moment of their lives since about age 10. This phenomenon of highly superior autobiographical memory was first documented in 2006 by UCI neurobiologist James McGaugh and colleagues. … Vector biologist Anthony James and associates produced a model of mosquito that impairs the development of the malaria parasite – a novel approach to one of the world’s most pressing public health issues.

Health & medicine

Gavin Herbert Eye Institute surgeons advanced a procedure in which they implant a miniature eye telescope to restore the central vision of people with macular degeneration. … Led by infectious diseases specialist Dr. Susan Huang, a nationwide study on antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals showed that use of antimicrobial soap and ointment on all intensive-care patients significantly cuts bloodstream infections. … UCI stem cell scientists became part of three research teams receiving a combined $57 million in CIRM funding to accelerate collaborative, translational research leading to human clinical trials of stem cell-based therapies for spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease and retinitis pigmentosa. … Employing a treatment tested and advanced by Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center faculty members, Swiss doctors with the world’s first clinical trial using human neural stem cells to treat chronic thoracic spinal cord injury reported that two patients had regained some ability to sense touch and heat.

Honors & accolades

Once again, U.S. News & World Report ranked UCI among the top 50 universities. This year, it’s 44th – and 12th among public institutions. … Reflecting its Earth-friendly infrastructure, programs and research, UCI made Sierra magazine’s “Coolest Schools” list for the third consecutive year. … More “cool” news: Green construction and energy conservation earned the campus the inaugural APPA Sustainability Award for Public Institutions; new and retrofitted Smart Labs cut energy use in half; and U.S. Department of Energy officials toured Natural Sciences II labs to see this UCI innovation in person. … Just five years after launching its OpenCourseWare initiative – which makes high-quality, university-level classes available for free online – UCI captured five prestigious awards for it. Individually, Oladele Ogunseitan, chair of the Program in Public Health, was honored for his role in raising the profile of the campus’s OpenCourseWare site. … The Paul Merage School of Business continued to gain recognition, leaping up to 43rd in the U.S. in BusinessWeek’s annual rankings. … UCI celebrated the 10th anniversary of its ADVANCE Program for gender equity and diversity in faculty hiring. The campus was one of the first in the nation to participate in the National Science Foundation-funded effort. … UCI scholarly strength was felt in the highest levels of government. Gary Richardson, professor of economics, was hired as the Federal Reserve System historian, and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states may not impose on juveniles mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole was influenced by a brief co-written by Elizabeth Cauffman, professor of psychology & social behavior and education. … More honors for UCI faculty: Best Colleges Online named Henry Pontell, professor of criminology, law & society and sociology, among the 10 “coolest college professors” nationwide. Deva Ramanan, associate professor of computer science, was selected as one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10” young scientists. … Andrea Henderson, a professor of English whose scholarly interests center on 18th and 19th century literature, visual art and science, received a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship.


By winning the NCAA championship at 800 meters, Charles Jock became the first Anteater track athlete in 34 years to snag an individual title. … The men’s volleyball team garnered its third NCAA championship in six years, sweeping USC in the finals. … And UCI was well represented in the Summer Olympics, with coaches and alumni athletes joining the U.S. contingent in London. Women’s water polo coach Dan Klatt served as an assistant coach of the U.S. women’s water polo team that made history with its first gold medal.

In memoriam

In addition to Rowland, the UCI family this year lost National Medal of Science recipient R. Duncan Luce, 87; renowned criminologist Gil Geis, 87; education professor and Fulbright Scholar Michael Martinez, 55; prominent economist Julius Margolis, 91; esteemed physics professor Douglas Mills, 71; and influential professor of history and film & media studies Mark Poster, 71.