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CELEBRATE! : Orange County's First 100 Years : THE IRVINE EXPERIMENT : UC IRVINE THE BUZZWORD IS 'DESTINY'

May 21, 1989|JEAN DAVIDSON | Davidson is a Times staff writer.

Smith, who declined interviews pending the outcome of a suit she filed against the Irvine Co. after she was bought out in 1983, wrote in a 1977 account of the land fight, "I must admit in all candor my motivations were not entirely philanthropic.

"It took no crystal ball to see what the location of UCLA had done for (the development of) Westwood in Los Angeles. The value of the Irvine Ranch property would be greatly enhanced, and there would be great benefits both financially and intellectually for the entire surrounding community."

Athalie Clark, Smith's mother, recalled that "Joan was adamant, and she did a magnificent job. We all thought the university could do so much for the community. It was very much an agrarian community at the time."

The university "gave an entirely different tone to the county," says Clark, now in her 80s and active as a philanthropist and a member of the UCI Foundation Board of Overseers. "Twenty-five years ago, the future of UCI was unknown because it was a new campus. I don't think anyone could have foretold the great impact it has had even outside the county."

THE EARLY YEARS of the university were exciting and experimental for students, administrators and planners. Daniel G. Aldrich, dean of agriculture for the UC system, who was chosen to be UCI's first chancellor in 1962, three years before the university opened, assembled the founding faculty and provided a vision that lasted until his retirement in 1984.

One of Aldrich's first appointments was Peltason, who in 1964 was lured from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana to be vice chancellor of student affairs. Twenty years later, in September, 1984, Peltason succeeded Aldrich to become UCI's second chancellor.

Now chancellor emeritus, Aldrich, 71, calls himself "the institutional memory."

Aldrich saw a relationship between campus design and academic goals and, with architect William L. Pereira, set out to create "a sense of destiny, a focal point for the campus and . . . the feeling that (the Irvine campus) was part of a major institution."

On the dry, sloping ranchland, Pereira, who also was the architect for the first village in what became the city of Irvine, carved concentric circles, with half a dozen boxy, modernistic buildings clustered around the campus ring. At the center, a 35-acre arboretum was planted with trees and shrubs from around the world. Now called Aldrich Park, it is the heart of UCI. The vigorous founding chancellor, who often can be found strolling there, never walks past a scrap of litter without stooping to pick it up.

Looking back to 1962, what did Aldrich expect UCI to become? "Exactly what it is," he replies. What kinds of advances will occur in the next 25 years? "More of the same," he says succinctly. "It all goes back to what we who came to Irvine were charged with building. UCI was a research university from the day we opened our doors. We did not begin as a two-year school that would one day become a four-year university. We offered Ph.D. programs on the day we started."

During the late 1960s and early '70s, while Berkeley and other campuses were torn by angry, destructive Vietnam War protests, Irvine was distinguished by relative calm. When Gov. Ronald Reagan declared a state of emergency at Berkeley in May, 1969, and sent in the California National Guard, UCI students staged a peaceful boycott of classes. And when nine UCI students who traveled to Berkeley to observe and report on the conflict were arrested there, Aldrich used $900 from his own pocket to bail them out.

"We weren't caught up with a whole mess of regulations, telling students, 'You can't do this; you can't do that.' There was an atmosphere of responsiveness," Aldrich says. "And unlike a campus in an urban setting where a rally would move into city streets, and frustrated students would look for things to lash out against, there was nothing surrounding Irvine but fields. After walking a few miles across fields, the enthusiasm flags."

A potentially serious clash between students and administrators at UCI occurred in February, 1969, when about 40 students staged a five-day sit-in in an English department writing lounge to protest the firing of three popular teachers. The students laid in for a siege with sleeping bags, peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and stacks of stereo records. They were "vexed," according to a newspaper account of the time, to discover that a professor had taken the stylus out of the stereo in the lounge.

Even though the sit-in was more of a slumber party than a hostile takeover, some campus officials and community residents urged Aldrich to call police.

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