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The Flowering of Arts and Humanities

The early years of the music department were shaped by one of American music’s most influential and innovative thinkers: Charles Seeger. Called the “father of ethnomusicology,” Seeger came to Berkeley in 1912 and developed a curriculum that included composition, orchestration, and musicology.

The department attracted other prominent composers such as Randall Thompson, Lukas Foss, and Roger Sessions, and it developed others such as Henry Cowell and Pulitzer Prize-winner Ernst Bacon ’35. In 1958, a pair of bequests led to the construction of May T. Morrison Hall and Hertz Memorial Hall of Music, providing a much-needed permanent home for the music department.

Performing arts found a first-class venue at Berkeley with the opening of Zellerbach Hall in 1968. Supported by a lead gift from the family of industrialist Isadore Zellerbach, this 2,000-seat theater has become a renowned performing arts center.

In 1869 freehand drawing was required for students in the agriculture curriculum, but, until 1923, a designated art department didn’t exist. It took the insight and persistence of two professors, Worth Ryder and Stephen Pepper, to establish a curriculum that balanced studio practice, theory and criticism, and art history, thereby securing the place of art at Berkeley.

Ryder’s success in bringing German abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann to teach summer school in 1930 and 1931 had far-reaching consequences. More than 30 years later, Hofmann donated 45 of his paintings and funds to found the Berkeley Art Museum. In 2016, the museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) relocated to a dramatic new building after a successful philanthropic campaign that raised over $100 million. The late Barclay Simpson ’66 (Ex-’43) was a driving force in its success. Today, it’s home to world-renowned collections, and through the James Cahill Asian Art Study Center has become one of the country’s leading institutions for the presentation and study of historical Asian art.

Berkeley has also been the home of writers representing many voices, including Joan Didion ’56, Thom Gunn, Robert Hass, June Jordan, Maxine Hong Kingston ’62, C.SNG. ’65, Leonard Michaels, Josephine Miles ’34, Ph.D. ’38, Nobelist Czesław Miłosz, Bharati Mukherjee, Gary Soto, and Gerald Vizenor. The university is widely recognized for its interdisciplinary approach to scholarship and research in the humanities, and in 1987 it founded the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities through a generous bequest.

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