News | 5 January 2015

UC Santa Cruz Celebrates 50 Years


By Kara Guzman, Santa Cruz Sentinel

UC Santa Cruz’s emergence as a powerhouse for research and innovation can be traced to its counterculture roots — a journey that the university will commemorate with a year of events as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Opened in 1965, what began as a small collection of trailers and partly constructed colleges on the former Cowell Ranch has today become as a leader in genomics research, data science, coastal sustainability and undergraduate teaching. UCSC now boasts an increasingly diverse student body of more than 16,500 — a far cry from the 652 students in that inaugural class.

The campus kicks off its celebrations with a “Dress Like It’s 1965” day Jan. 15, a campuswide costume contest judged by an alum who is a designer for the TV show “Mad Men.” UCSC also has released a music video tracing the campus’ evolution, featuring historical footage of its early days.


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“UCSC at 50” Events

Jan. 15: “Dress Like 1965” at 12noon, Quarry Plaza, free — a costume contest judged by “Mad Men” designer and alum Tiffany White Stanton

Jan. 27: “Making the Cosmos Local” at 6 p.m., Kuumbwa Jazz Center, $10 — the first in a series of talks on global questions.

Jan. 29: Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation at 7 p.m., Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, free — Angela Davis speaks on racism and poverty.

Feb. 5: “50/50: 50 Artists from Five Decades” opening reception at 5 p.m., Sesnon Gallery, free — art exhibit features alumni.

Feb. 26: Anita Hill talk at 5:30 p.m., Colleges Nine and 10 Multipurpose Room, free — professor and author will speak on race and gender.

For a complete list, visit


UCSC History: A timeline of events of UC Santa Cruz

1961: UC purchases 1,918 acres of Cowell Home Ranch property for $2 million. Santa Cruz beat Almaden Valley in a close contest for the new campus’s site, planned for 27,500 students.

1965: UCSC welcomes its first class of 652 students.

1966: Cowell and StevensonColleges finish construction. Crown College opens the following year and Merrill College the next.

1970: The banana slug is conceived as the school’s mascot, thanks to volleyball team member Dave Van Cleve, who decided the team needed a name if it was going to compete. PorterCollege opens and Kresge College follows the next year.

1971: New academic plan created for 1970 to 1980, revising the enrollment goal from 27,500 to between 10,000 to 15,000.

1972: Oakes College and College Eight are established. The Institute of Marine Sciences also opens.

1978: Long Marine Lab opens.

1979: Campus begins offering letter grades to supplement narrative evaluations.

1980: The Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics is founded.

1982: Shakespeare Santa Cruzpresents its first season.

1988: UC Regents establish UC Observatories at Santa Cruz, to manage both Lick Observatory and UC’s part of the Keck Observatory.

1992: Alum and Los Angeles Times reporter Hector Tobar wins a Pulitzer Prize. Other Pulitzer-winning alumni include Laurie Garrett, Dana Priest, Annie Wells and Martha Mendoza.

1997: The Jack Baskin School of Engineering is founded.

2000: Graduate student Jim Kent helps assemble the first draft of the human genome. College Nine is founded and College 10 follows two years later.

2008: Undergraduate enrollment reaches 15,000.

2013: President Obama awards astronomy professor Sandra Faber the National Medal of Science.

Source: UC Santa Cruz and “The Origin of UC Santa Cruz” by William Doyle