Berkeley through the years



The Gold Rush begins. The First Constitutional Convention of the State of California calls for establishing a state university.


Trustees from the private College of California in Oakland meet at Founders Rock and name their future campus site Berkeley after 18th-century philosopher George Berkeley.


The state legislature decides to establish a college to teach agriculture, mining, and mechanical arts using federal land grants.


The College of California merges with the state college, donating its 160-acre campus site in Berkeley to the state of California.


On March 23, the governor signs the act creating the University of California. This date becomes known as Charter Day.


The University of California opens its doors in Oakland. John LeConte, a physicist, is the first professor appointed. His brother Joseph’s botany courses mark the beginning of the life sciences at the university.


Henry Durant, a Congregational minister and founder of the College of California, becomes the first president of the University of California.


Regent Edward Tompkins’ gift establishes the university’s first “chair of learning” in oriental languages and literature.

Daniel Coit Gilman becomes the second president of the University of California.


The University of California graduates its first class and moves into its new quarters — North and South Halls — in Berkeley. Enrollment stands at 199 students.

The university forms an alumni association with Charles A. Garter, College of California Class of 1866, as its first president.


A bequest from James Lick finances the university’s first scientific research facility, an observatory on Mt. Hamilton.


Oakland businessman A. K. P. Harmon provides the funds to build Harmon Gymnasium. In 1932 Edwards Fields and Stadium are named after his son-in-law, math professor George C. Edwards, Class of 1873.


Henry Douglas Bacon donates books, works of art, and funds that are matched by the state to build The Bacon Art and Library Building.


William Carey Jones teaches a course in Roman law, the seedbed for the Boalt Hall School of Law.


Cal and Stanford play the first Big Game in San Francisco. The final score is Stanford 14, Cal 10.


Architect Julia Morgan receives a degree in civil engineering. She later works on three campus buildings: the Hearst Greek Theatre, Girton Hall, and Hearst Gymnasium.

Regent Jacob Reinstein and drawing instructor Bernard Maybeck begin to discuss improving the campus. In 1896, Phoebe Apperson Hearst funds an international competition to develop a campus architectural plan.


Renowned English professor Charles Mills Gayley composes the song “The Golden Bear,” and the Golden Bear becomes the guardian of the university.


Levi Strauss matches funds for 28 scholarships created by the state legislature, launching a long-standing philanthropic relationship between his family and the university.


Cora Jane Flood provides funds to help establish the College of Commerce, now the Walter A. Haas School of Business.


The Stanford Axe first appears at a Cal/Stanford baseball game in San Francisco.

Benjamin Ide Wheeler becomes the eighth president of the University of California.



The Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology (originally the Lowie Museum of Anthropology) is founded.


John Galen Howard begins to execute the campus architectural plan and establishes the Department of Architecture, now part of the College of Environmental Design.

Commencement is held for the first time in the new Hearst Greek Theatre, a gift of William Randolph Hearst. President Theodore Roosevelt presents the commencement address.


Students from the Classes of 1907 and 1908 build the “Big C” on Charter Hill.

Hubert Howe Bancroft’s library is added to the university’s collection.


Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt gives funds for a building to house the Department of Jurisprudence, later named the Boalt Hall School of Law.


Annie Montague Alexander provides support to establish the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Joseph P. Grinnell is appointed its first director.


Charles Franklin Doe’s bequest finances construction of Doe Memorial Library.


Gilbert N. Lewis comes to Berkeley to head the College of Chemistry.


Sather Gate is built, funded by the Jane K. Sather Trust. In 1914, Sather Tower — the Campanile — is completed. The Campanile chimes ring for the first time on November 2, 1917.


Joseph C. Rowell, Class of 1874, retires after 44 years as University Librarian. At Rowell’s memorial service in 1938, President Wheeler notes that he was the last living link to the university’s founders.


Andy Smith’s unbeaten football “Wonder Team” wins the first of four Pacific Coast Conference titles and goes on to win the Rose Bowl in 1921.


May T. Morrison donates her husband’s book collection and provides funds for the Morrison Library in Doe Memorial Library.


A statewide campaign brings in $1 million in contributions to build California Memorial Stadium, dedicated to students who lost their lives in World War I.


The School of Education, founded in 1892, finds a home in Haviland Hall, built with a gift from Hannah N. Haviland.


William Randolph Hearst gives funds for the Hearst Gymnasium for Women in memory of his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst.


Contributions from A.P. Giannini and others support the first chair of Italian culture. Giannini also provides funds to erect Giannini Hall, home of the College of Natural Resources.

Cal Crew wins the Olympic gold medal for the United States. They repeat this feat in 1932 and 1948.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. donates $1.75 million for the purchase of land for and construction of International House, which opens in 1930.


The widow of alumnus and Regent Philip Bowles gives the funds to build the university’s first student residence hall for men.


Ernest V. Cowell Memorial Hospital opens, funded by a bequest from Cowell, Class of 1880. The 100-bed facility is the only one in the country approved by the American College of Surgeons as a standard hospital.

Lillie Hitchcock Coit establishes the Charles M. and Martha Hitchcock Chair in memory of her parents. Her father’s 1885 gift endowed the university’s prestigious Hitchcock lecture series.

Robert Gordon Sproul, Class of 1913, becomes the 11th president of the University of California.


The Wheeler Oak, a favorite meeting spot for students, is cut down because of its age.


Ernest O. Lawrence receives the Nobel Prize in Physics — the first of 22 Nobel Prizes to be awarded to Berkeley faculty— and the first ever given to a professor at a public university.


Oski makes his first appearance at a freshman rally.

The School of Optometry is established.


The first women’s dormitory, Stern Hall, opens. Funds were donated by Rosalie Meyer Stern (in white hat in photo), widow of Sigmund Stern, Class of 1879.


California Alumni Foundation is established to encourage private gifts, trusts, and bequests for the benefit of UC Berkeley. It is renamed UC Berkeley Foundation in 1975.


Clara Clemens Samossoud donates The Mark Twain Papers to the university.



Clark Kerr becomes the first chancellor of the Berkeley campus.


Alumni House opens as an on campus home for alumni, funded by the California Alumni Association.


The student humor magazine, The Pelican, gets its own building with a gift from the first editor, Earle C. Anthony, Class of 1903. The Pelican Building is now the Graduate Student Assembly Building.


A bequest from Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Hertz finances the construction of the Hertz Memorial Hall of Music.


Strawberry Canyon Recreational Facilities open with funds donated by Walter A. Haas, his wife Elise, and her aunt, Lucie Stern.


The new Student Union Building is completed with the help of gifts from two Regents, Edwin W. Pauley and Edward H. Heller.


The Free Speech Movement brings Berkeley to the center of a national debate when students, including Mario Savio, demonstrate against rules prohibiting political activities on campus.


UC Berkeley ranks number one in the nation for the quality of its graduate programs and maintains this ranking in each decade through the 2010s.


German expressionist painter Hans Hofmann makes a gift of paintings and funds to help launch the University Art Museum, today the Berkeley Art Museum.

Lawrence Hall of Science, a hands-on museum and innovative teaching center, is founded in honor of Ernest O. Lawrence.

The family of Isadore Zellerbach provides funds for Zellerbach Hall, the university’s first comprehensive performing arts center.


The School of Public Policy is established. In 1997 it is named for Richard ’41 and Rhoda ’46 Goldman in honor of their gift to the school.


The Bechtel Engineering Center, a gift of Laura and Stephen D. Bechtel Sr. and other friends of Cal, opens.

Poet Czeslaw Milosz, Berkeley’s first Nobelist outside of the sciences, receives the medal in literature.


Spieker Aquatics Complex opens with the lead gift made by Ned ’66 and Carol ’66 Spieker.

Cal beats Stanford with “The Play,” a five-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown as time runs out.


Gerard Debreu becomes the first Berkeley economist to win the Nobel Prize. John Harsanyi, Daniel McFadden, and George Akerlof also win the prize in 1994, 2000, and 2001 respectively.


Fifteen computer companies contribute to development of a computer-aided electrical engineering design center in Cory Hall.


Former Governor and Mrs. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown become the first major donors to UC Berkeley’s campaign to modernize campus biology facilities.


Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman leads the university’s first campuswide comprehensive fundraising campaign, Keeping the Promise, which enters its public phase with $170 million in advance gifts. It ultimately raises $469 million.


For the first time, no ethnic group forms a majority among Cal undergraduates


Chang-Lin Tien becomes chancellor and the first Asian American to head a major U.S. research university.


William V. Power ’30 establishes a chair in biology in the College of Letters and Science. His ongoing generosity, including funds for faculty excellence and the neurosciences as well as his significant bequest in 2003, makes him one of the top donors in Cal history.


A new University health center, the Tang Center, opens, thanks to a gift from the Tang Family Foundation in honor of Hong Kong businessman Jack Tang.


A new computer science center named for Y. Charles and Helen C. Soda opens. More than two-thirds of undergraduates now enroll in a computer science course.

The Valley Life Sciences Building is renovated as part of a campaign to update facilities for the biological sciences with a naming gift from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation.


The Walter A. Haas School of Business opens. The mini-campus, designed by Charles Moore and funded entirely by private gifts, is called “one of the finest academic buildings of recent years” by the New York Times.

The C.V. Starr Foundation makes a naming gift for the new East Asian Library.


Nobel laureate, professor, and former chancellor Glenn Seaborg becomes the only living scientist to have an element, Seaborgium, named in his honor.

Robert M. Berdahl becomes chancellor and takes over leadership of the Campaign for the New Century. The campaign raises $1.44 billion in private support — the most ever raised by a public university at the campaign’s conclusion in 2001.

Tan Kah Kee Hall, named for the industrialist/philanthropist, provides laboratory space for chemistry and chemical engineering research.


The Golden Bears have a new home in the Walter A. Haas, Jr. Pavilion. This “new Harmon Gym” is twice as large, but retains the spirit of the old building.

An anonymous gift of $50 million helps to launch the Berkeley Health Sciences Initiative and foster cutting-edge interdisciplinary research on campus.


Hearst Memorial Mining Building reopens after a four-year renovation and seismic improvement financed by public and private funds.

 The University honors the late Chang-Lin Tien by naming the Center for East Asian Studies after him.

The Association of Research Libraries ranks The Library as the top public research university library in North America.



Groundbreaking takes place for the Stanley Biosciences and Bioengineering Facility, the hub for interdisciplinary teaching and research in the biological and physical sciences and engineering.

The university dedicates the Builders of Berkeley monument on the terrace of Doe Memorial Library in honor of the university’s leading benefactors.


Robert J. Birgeneau becomes Berkeley’s ninth chancellor and commits to improving access and excellence during his tenure.


Professor George Smoot receives the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in imaging the early universe, followed five years later by Professor Saul Perlmutter, who helped discover the universe’s accelerating expansion.


The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation makes a landmark $113 million gift, including a $110 million challenge grant to endow 100 new faculty chairs. 

Stanley Hall, a state-of-the-art research facility and headquarters for the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, opens. It brings together preeminent bioengineers, biologists, chemists, and physicists under a single roof.

UC Berkeley is selected to lead the Energy Biosciences Institute, a $500 million green energy effort funded by BP.


With a lead naming gift, the C.V. Starr East Asian Library opens, making it the first freestanding structure at a United States university erected solely for East Asian collections.

The Campaign for Berkeley launches with a $3 billion goal aimed at boosting the level of private support and building lasting endowment funding.


The Bancroft Library reopens, following a $64 million seismic retrofit and renovation funded by the state and more than 700 donors, creating an elegantly upgraded home for books and special collections.

Sutardja Dai Hall opens as the new home of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).


Richard C. Blum Hall is unveiled, creating a new home for the Blum Center for Developing Economies, a 4-year-old effort to find innovative solutions to global poverty.


The Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance, designed to enhance educational and athletic achievement, opens.

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life — which became part of UC Berkeley in 2010 — opens in a renovated home in downtown Berkeley, thanks to lead donors Warren Hellman ’55, Tad Taube, and the Koret Foundation.

Propelled by a lead $40 million gift, the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences is dedicated. It serves as a nexus for research exploring the root causes of diseases.


The renovated California Memorial Stadium opens, bringing significant enhancements such as improved fan seating and public spaces, seismic upgrades, a state-of-the-art press box, and better views.


The Campaign for Berkeley concludes, having raised a record $3.13 billion — reinforcing Berkeley’s stature as a world-class university.

Nicholas B. Dirks becomes Berkeley’s 10th chancellor. He is known for his commitment to accessible, high-quality undergraduate education, the globalization of the university, and innovation across the disciplines.

Randy W. Schekman, professor of molecular and cell biology, wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his role in revealing the machinery that regulates the transport and secretion of proteins in our cells.


UC Berkeley and UCSF launch the Innovative Genomics Initiative, backed by a $10 million gift from the Li Ka Shing Foundation. At its core is a revolutionary technology discovered by Professor Jennifer Doudna, the initiative’s first executive director.

Chancellor Dirks unveils his vision for a new Berkeley Global Campus along the Richmond waterfront. “We have the opportunity to become the first American university to establish an international campus in the United States,” he says.


The campus puts the finishing touches on its new ASUC Student Union, part of a $223 million project to renovate and revitalize Lower Sproul Plaza.

Berkeley announces the African American Initiative, aimed at boosting recruitment and yield for black undergraduate students and improving support for those enrolled at Berkeley.


The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive opens at its new location in downtown Berkeley. The 83,000-square-foot facility integrates a repurposed building — the former UC Berkeley printing plant — with a dramatic new structure.