Phoebe Apperson was a 19-year-old Missouri schoolmarm when she met and married George Hearst, a wealthy miner more than twice her age. A Missouri native himself, Hearst had left to seek his fortune with a pick, pan, and shovel in the Gold Rush; but by 1862, when he returned home to visit his mother and met his future wife, he had become one of San Francisco’s leading citizens.
Mrs. Hearst’s belief in the importance of education did not fade when she became a wealthy and prominent woman, and she was particularly interested in the University of California. In 1891 she established scholarships for women, and she later funded the Phoebe Apperson Hearst International Architectural Competition to develop a master plan for the young institution. This plan produced many of the campus’s most notable buildings, including the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, which she had built as a memorial to her beloved husband.
Mrs. Hearst was also the founding patron for the Department of Anthropology, supporting numerous anthropological expeditions and the museum that now bears her name.
Always interested in students, each spring she chartered a train to bring the senior class on an outing to her hacienda in Pleasanton. When she became the first woman Regent in 1897, she had a building erected adjacent to her residence near the campus, where she entertained students. The building, known as Hearst Hall, was later moved to campus and became the university’s first gymnasium and social center for women. When it burned down in 1922, her son, William Randolph Hearst, donated the Hearst Gymnasium for Women in her memory.
The younger Hearst had already made his own remarkable contribution to the campus with the construction of the Hearst Greek Theatre in 1903. At the dedication he remarked: “I am interested in this university and I want to help it. This is no great thing, but it seemed to be a need and I am happy to supply it.”