Preeminent among institutions of learning in California, and occupying a dignified place among the great universities of the United States, is the University of California, the principal buildings and headquarters of which are at Berkeley, in Alameda county, though the Lick Observatory, the Hastings Law College and other branches of the great work are not carried on at Berkeley.
Geographically and climatically the location of the state's highest place of learning is superb, for Berkeley escapes the fogs and stiff sea breezes of the immediate coast and particularly of the peninsula which comprises the city and county of San Francisco. It is also far removed from the extremes of summer that make the San Joaquin and the Sacramento valleys too hot for comfortable studying.
The town of Berkeley now exceeds twenty-five thousand inhabitants, the community being one of the most orderly and free from crime of any city in the west. The site of the university comprises about two hundred and seventy acres, rising at first in a gentle, then in a bolder slope from a height of two hundred feet above sea level to one not far from a thousand. Back of it a chain of hills continues to climb a thousand feet higher, affording an inspiring outlook over the bay and city of San Francisco, over the neighboring plains and mountains, the ocean, and the Golden Gate. As before said, the climate is exceptionally good for uninterrupted work throughout the year.
The following is a brief summary of the history of the great institution of learning, given as a prelude to more specific data:
"In 1869 the College of California, which had been incorporated in 1855 and which had carried on collegiate instruction since 1860, closed is work of instruction and transferred its property, on terms which were mutually agreed upon, to the University of California.
"The university was instituted by a law which received the approval of the governor March 23, 1868. Instruction was begun in Oakland in the autumn of 1869. The commencement exercises of 1873 were held at Berkeley, July 16, when the university was formally transferred to its permanent home. Instruction began at Berkeley in the autumn of 1873. The constitution of 1879 made the existing organization of the university perpetual.
"The University of California is an integral part of the public educational system of the state. As such it completes the work begun in the public schools. Through aid from the state and the United States, and by private gifts, it furnishes facilities for instruction in literature and in science, and in the professions of law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and art. At Berkeley are its Colleges of Letters, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Commerce, Agriculture, Mechanics, Mining, Civil Engineering and Chemistry; at Mount Hamilton is its graduate Astronomical Department, founded by James Lick; in San Francisco are its Colleges of Law, Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Art. The universitiy's endowment is capitalized at about eleven million dollars; its yearly income is about seven hundred thousand dollars; it has received private benefactions to the amount of nearly eight million dollars. The fourteen buildings in which the colleges at Berkeley are at present housed have been outgrown. The university is indebted to Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst for permanent building plans upon a comprehensive scale. In pursuance of these plans, three buildings are now approaching completion; the president's house; the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, given by Mrs. Hearst for the College of Mining of the university and as a memorial to the late Senator George Hearst; and California Hall, for which an appropriation of $250,000 has been made by the state legislature. A fourth building has been completed--the beautiful Greek theater, an open-air auditorium, patterned after the classic structure at Epidaurus, and given to the university by William Randolph Hearst. The fifth of the new buildings will be the library, for which generous provision was made by the late Charles F. Doe, of San Francisco. At Berkeley there are one hundred and seventy-five officers of instruction distributed among thirty-six departments; twenty-seven hundred students; a library of one hundred and thirteen thousand volumes; an art gallery; museums and laboratories; also the agricultural experiment grounds and stations, which are invaluable adjuncts of the farming, orchard and vineyard interests of the state. In San Francisco there are one hundred and fifty officers of instruction, besides demonstrators and other assistants, and six hundred students. Tuition in the colleges at Berkeley, during regular sessions, is free to residents of California; non-residents pay a fee of $10 each half-year. In the professional colleges, in San Francisco, except that oflw, tuition fees are charged. The instruction in all the colleges is open to all qualified persons, without distinction of sex. The constitution of the state provides for the perpetuation of the university, with all its departments."
Going back for a moment to beginnings, we find the idea of a State University a fixed part of the plans of the builders of the state, for as early as 1849 brave and far-seeing men of brains were making plans for the higher education of young men and women yet unborn, laying deep the foundations of the present vast and growing institution.
To Thomas H. Greer, state senator from Sacramento, belongs much of the honor of the initiative in the matter of building of the university. At the very first session of the legislature he gave notice that he would introduce a bill to establish and endow a state university. During the interim between the first and second sessions of the legislature the senator's mind was full of the projects of starting a university. In New York, where he was visiting in November, 1850, he planned the outlines of his scheme for the state's chief educational institution. In January, 1851, he submitted to the legislature much of his data and correspondence on the subject. This awoke general interest and enthusiasm and won to the support of his ambition many able and influential men.
For many years able leaders like Sherman Daw, an influential man of the times, labored for the founding of a university on broad and permanent lines; and in March, 1868, under the leadership of the Reverend Samuel B. Bell, representing Alameda and Santa Clara counties in the senate, a law was passed establishing the university.
This bill was but the culmination in legal enactment of plans previously urged with force and eloquence by many men of the type of Robert C. Rodgers, of San Francisco, and Charles E. Mount, of Claveras--all pioneered, however, as before said, by Senator Greer.
Former President Kellogg, of the university, aptly said that the institution was not the offspring of any one mind, however, nor the result of any single legislative step. It was a product due to a combination of forces, setting steadily from the first toward the one great issue.
The College School at Oakland, established in 1860, with the Reverend Isaac Brayton in charge and the late Frederick M. Campbell as vice-principal, teacher of literature, etc., was the nucleus to which was built the university itself. When the College of Oakland was fully ready to burst from its chrysalis into the State University, John W. Dwinelle, one of the master spirits of the time, and a lawyer of note, was chosen to prepare the charter, and the organic law governing the institution was drawn by him.
The inception of the work of building the university fell to Governor Haight, who was ex-officio president of the Board of Regents. Governor Haight appointed regents without delay. He and they met and organized on June 9, 1868. On June 25th of the same year we find Regents Doyle, Dwinnelle, Stebbins, Moss and Felton digesting plans for the organizing of colleges, and it has always been held by friends of the institution, as well as by educators who have investigated the question, that they drew their plans well and laid deep the foundations of the University of California.
On December 1, 1868, a number of professors were elected, among them the illustrious John Le Conte. The others were Professors Kellogg, Fisher, Joseph Le Conte--afterward world-famous--and others. Professor John Le Conte arrived in California in March, 1869, and soon thereafter he arranged the courses of instruction, set the requirements for admission, and issued a prospectus for the coming year. On June 14, 1869, in the absence of the president, Professor John Le Conte was appointed to discharge the duties of the office of president. Later his brother, Joseph Le Conte, became one of the strongest and most beloved professors of the university, to which he was devoted unto the day of his death. Much of the fame of the university is due to his illustrious career.
During the early years of the institution its curriculum was necessarily meager, but instruction was thorough so far as it went. Each year of the growth of the university the work has been broadened and made more complete. Under President Benjamin Ide Wheeler, its present able executive, no one can predict the limit of its growth and influence.