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Historical Overview

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Los Angeles: Historical Overview

The University of California, Los Angeles--UCLA for short--is the second largest campus in enrollment in the University of California system. It is located in the western part of Los Angeles with the Santa Monica Mountains as a backdrop and the blue Pacific Ocean about five miles distant. The campus is of rolling terrain and was once a part of an old Spanish land grant, the Rancho San Jose de Buenos Ayres.

UCLA is Established
The Los Angeles campus had its origins in the Los Angeles State Normal School, which was founded in 1881. It became a part of the University on May 23, 1919, when Governor William D. Stephens signed the enabling legislation that transferred buildings, grounds, and records. This marked the culmination of a long effort by Regent Edward A. Dickson and others to establish a campus of the state university in Los Angeles.

A Young Campus Grows
The "Southern Branch," as it was then called, consisted of a 25-acre campus on North Vermont Avenue, a two-year curriculum in the College of Letters and Science, and 250 students. It expanded rapidly. Teacher training courses were organized into a Teachers College in 1922. The letters and science program was extended to four years in 1924. By action of the Regents, the name of the institution was officially changed to the University of California at Los Angeles in 1927 and to the University of California, Los Angeles in 1953.

The young campus continued to grow in both quantity and quality for several reasons: it met the needs of a burgeoning southern California; it inherited a rich academic tradition from the Berkeley campus; and it attracted brilliant young teachers, scholars, and scientists. Another factor in the rapid growth of the Los Angeles campus was the generous support from five affiliated groups which embraced both the University and the community: the UCLA Art Council, the University Affiliates, the Friends of the Library, the UCLA Medical Center Auxiliary, and the Friends of Music (now disbanded).

In the mid-1920s, it was obvious that the 25-acre Vermont Avenue location would be too small for the rapidly-growing institution. A search for a new campus was conducted by the Board of Regents, and some 17 sites from Ventura county to San Diego county were formally considered. The Regents chose the so-called "Beverly Site"--just west of Beverly Hills--and announced its selection on March 21, 1925.

The owners of the land, Edwin Janss and Harold Janss, who controlled some 200 acres of the site, and Alphonzo Bell, owner of the rest of the 383-acre tract, offered to sell the land for $1 million, though its value for subdivision purposes was several times this amount. The Janss brothers, in effect, made a gift on the order of $3 million; Mr. Bell, a gift of $350,000.

Shortly thereafter, the citizens of surrounding communities came forward with an offer to raise the remaining sum through a bond issue. Los Angeles provided $70,000; Santa Monica, $120,000; Beverly Hills, $100,000; and Venice, $50,000. Later, the City Council of Los Angeles augmented the gift fund by an appropriation of $100,000.

Early Buildings
The interest and good will evidenced by these gifts undoubtedly played a part in the decision of the people of California in 1926 to issue $6 million in bonds, one-half of which would go to construct buildings on the new campus. On September 12, 1927, Director Ernest Carroll Moore turned the first shovelful of earth to start construction and on September 20, 1929, the first buildings were ready for occupancy.

The first four buildings--the College Library, Royce Hall, the Physics-Biology Building, and the Chemistry Building--were located around a central quadrangle. Because the rolling terrain of the campus suggested northern Italy, a Romanesque or Italian Renaissance style of architecture was adopted, featuring red brick, cast stone trim, and tile roofs. Many of the early buildings were modeled from churches and universities in Bologna, Milan, and Verona.

During the 1930s several other buildings were added to the cluster around the main quadrangle--the Education Building, Kerckhoff Hall, the Men's Gymnasium, the Women's Gymnasium, Mira Hershey Hall, and the Administration Building. After World War II, the architects changed to a less costly and more modern style which still featured red brick. The 1950s and early 1960s saw a building boom that produced more than 60 permanent structures on campus.

Graduate Programs
The campus administrators early recognized that no University could reach full maturity unless it offered graduate courses leading to master's and doctor's degrees. On August 8, 1933, just 14 years after the Los Angeles campus became a part of the University, the Regents authorized graduate training for the M.A. degree and specified a graduate enrollment of 125 students. In the first year, 170 qualified students applied and were enrolled. Graduate enrollment has been climbing ever since. On May 22, 1936, the Regents extended their authorization to include the Ph.D. degree. At June Commencement two years later, the first Ph.D. degree was awarded to Kenneth P. Bailey, a student in the Department of History. One year earlier, a Ph.D. degree had been conferred at Berkeley on Norman Watson, a student in the Department of Physics who had done much of his graduate research at Los Angeles.

World War II
During World War II, student enrollment shrank, but the campus became important to the war effort. The Navy conducted Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps and V-12 programs to train officer candidates and the Army Specialized Training Program in engineering, medicine, and languages was accompanied by another Army contingent of meteorology cadets. A number of war mobilization classes were conducted by University Extension. Following the war there was a sudden influx of veterans and enrollments shot up to new highs.

Academics
Prior to World War II, four schools and colleges had been established: College of Letters and Science (1919); School of Education, formerly the Teachers College (1939); Schools of Business Administration (1936); and College of Agriculture (1939). By the late 1960s, ten others had been established: College of Engineering (1945); School of Medicine (1945); School of Social Welfare (1947); School of Law (1949); School of Nursing (1949); School of Dentistry (1958); School of Public Health (1960); School of Library Service (1960); College of Fine Arts, formerly the College of Applied Arts (1961); and School of Architecture and Urban Planning (1962). During the post-war period most of the institutes and other inter-disciplinary areas of organized research were established.

By 1965, the following institutes and research centers were in existence: African Studies Center; Archaeological Survey; Brain Research Institute; Business Administration Research Division; Bureau of Business and Economics Research; Cancer Research Institute; Cardiovascular Research Laboratory, Los Angeles County Heart Association; Center for the Study of Comparative Folklore and Mythology Studies; Health Sciences Computing Facility; Computing Facility; Institute of Ethnomusicology; Exceptional Child Research; Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics; Institute of Government and Public Affairs; Institute of Industrial Relations; Center for Labor Research and Education; Center for Research in Language and Linguistics; Latin American Center; Law-Science Research Center; Library Research Institute; Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies; Molecular Biology Institute; Near Eastern Center; Laboratory of Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Biology; Oral History Program; Real Estate Research Program; Russian and East European Studies Center; Space Sciences Center; Jules Stein Eye Institute; Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering; Water Resources Center; Western Data Processing Center; Western Management Sciences Institute; and Zoology Fisheries Research.

Administration
In 1965, the chancellor of the Los Angeles campus was Franklin D. Murphy, formerly chancellor of the University of Kansas, inaugurated July 1, 1960. He headed an academic staff that included 495 professors, 283 associate professors, 466 assistant professors, 750 instructors, lecturers, and miscellaneous titles, 900 teaching assistants, and 1,400 in research categories. The nonacademic staff numbered 6,240 full-time employees. Student enrollment was 26,119 (17,132 undergraduates, 8,987 graduate students). At that time, the Los Angeles campus was one of America's fastest growing major universities. A part of the University of California system, it was also widely recognized as a distinguished and productive university in its own right.

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Last updated 06/18/04.