The Road to ‘65

Editor’s note: This fourth installment in our series of stories leading up to a celebration of UCSC’s 50th anniversary in 2015 is about the dedication of the campus’s Founders' Rock in 1964, a moment that was important at the time but that has since been somewhat overlooked by history.

This article appeared in the spring ‘14 issue of UC Santa Cruz Review magazine.

Founders Rock Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, UC President Clark Kerr, and Santa Cruz Sentinel editor Gordon "Scotchy" Sinclair affixing the plaque commemorating the founding of UC Santa Cruz to Founder's Rock at the campus dedication in 1964.
Share this article

For a good-sized chunk of limestone, UC Santa Cruz’s Founders' Rock is pretty easy to miss.

Even though it’s hip high and sits about four feet from a sidewalk between Cowell College and the Humanities 1 building, most people walking by don’t give the grey, lichen-spotted rock a second glance.

It’s not mentioned in campus tours and gets short shrift in UCSC history. But it was center stage on a late afternoon on April 17, 1964, when hundreds of people gathered to witness the dedication of the UC system’s newest campus.

A long line of cars snaked from town to the campus on that day. Fog shrouded the bay, but up on the hill, skies were clear. UC President Clark Kerr was on hand, along with state senators, city council members, and some UC Regents. A month after the ceremony, UCSC Chancellor Dean McHenry revealed that President John F. Kennedy was to have participated in the dedication ceremony, but an assassin’s bullet had ended those plans.

Yellowed clippings from the Santa Cruz Sentinel recount how a crowd of about 1,800 people listened to then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown praise the campus’s beauty and declare that its addition would “demonstrate again California’s unique commitment to tuition-free higher education.”

The only mention of a Founders' Rock, however, is a photo showing a smiling Gerald Hagar, the retired chairman of the Board of Regents, holding a bronze plaque in front of the limestone boulder. Among the plaque’s 29 names are Speaker of the California Assembly Jesse Unruh; State Schools Superintendent Max Rafferty; and UC Regent Dorothy Chandler, an arts patron and cultural leader who was married to the former publisher of the Los Angeles Times. In the photo, Gov. Brown seems to half-sit on the edge of the rock.

The newspaper’s caption calls the rock “Founder’s Stone,” but there is no mention of who decided UCSC needed a memorial rock or where it came from or why it was placed at this seemingly unremarkable spot.

“I believe (then-campus architect) Jack Wagstaff recommended it after consulting with (UCSC landscape architect) Tommy Church,” remembered Hal Hyde, who was the campus’s business and finance manager at the time and attended the dedication ceremony.

Both Wagstaff and Church were UC Berkeley educated, he noted, and had strong ties to that campus, whose own Founders' Rock marked the day almost exactly 104 years earlier on April 16, 1860, when 12 men “consecrated” the undeveloped Berkeley campus site to learning.

It also may not have hurt that before coming to UCSC, McHenry taught at UCLA, where a 75-ton Founders' Rock held a central spot on campus.

UCSC’s boulder came from one of the quarry sites on campus, according to Hyde, and its location under an elegant oak—one likely picked by Church—afforded a short walk for dignitaries at the dedication, which was held where UCSC’s inaugural Cowell College was to be built.

Work was underway on the Natural Science Unit and Central Services Building, but Cowell’s construction had been delayed, and Hyde remembered that, at the time of the dedication, campus officials were worried that postponements would mean the college’s first students would have nowhere to live. They’d even considered bringing a Navy ship to the bay to use as a dormitory but later settled on a grouping of trailers instead, he said.

“It was just a milestone of a time, the pulling of everything together,” said Hyde of the dedication. “Here we were, and the future was ahead of us.”

Your UCSC history To prepare for UCSC’s upcoming 50th anniversary, we have created an online timeline. But no telling of the campus’s history can be complete without you. Please check out this exciting project — and contribute a photo or other personal memory of your time at UCSC.

First UCSC photobomb? Who are those cute little boys photobombing the gentlemen in this picture? Help us solve the mystery! If you know, write us at, and we’ll put the answer in the next issue of Review.