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John S. Galbraith, 86; Chancellor Left Mark on UC San Diego

June 12, 2003|Errin Haines | Times Staff Writer

John S. Galbraith, a scholar on 19th century British history who served as UC San Diego's second chancellor and helped create the campus' identity, especially its landmark pyramid-shaped library, has died. He was 86.

Galbraith died Tuesday of complications from pneumonia at the Brookside Inn Convalescent Home in San Diego.

As a faculty representative on the UC Board of Regents in the early 1960s, the then-UCLA professor offered many suggestions as to how to make UCSD into an institution using Oxford University's model of individual colleges. UC officials were so impressed with his ideas that they recruited Galbraith in 1962 as vice chancellor of the new school during its planning and early construction stages.

Over the next two years, Galbraith and then-Chancellor Herbert York created the foundations for UCSD, turning a graduate institution with mostly oceanography, physics, chemistry and biology students into a comprehensive campus with undergraduates. Galbraith became chancellor in 1964 as the first undergraduate students arrived on campus; he served for four years.

"We worked very well together and shared common ideals. It was a happy time," York said in an interview. "He was of great help, particularly with regard to recruiting."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday June 17, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Galbraith obituary -- The obituary of historian and former UC San Diego Chancellor John S. Galbraith in Thursday's California section stated that he attended the University of Miami in Ohio. The correct name of the school is Miami University of Ohio.

Galbraith quickly identified and attracted top scholars to teach at the school and made the establishment of a preeminent library one his main goals.

"A great humanities faculty needs a great library in the same way that scientists need great laboratories," he said at the time.

The project almost didn't happen. A year and a half into his tenure, Galbraith threatened to quit when it appeared that his dream would be deferred by UC system officials because of costs. But school faculty members persuaded him to remain, the library project proceeded and the facility opened in 1970.

His son, James, said his father considered the facility, now named the Geisel Library, as his crowning achievement at UCSD. He helped guide the conception and construction of the inverted pyramid built of concrete and glass designed by architect William Pereira.

"He took this very seriously," James Galbraith said. "He created something, and he was not going to let any unknowledgeable person get in the way of what needed to be done at the school."

The late chancellor's affinity for the British empire can be traced to his roots in Scotland, where he was born in 1916. Along with other Scottish and Irish emigres fleeing the beginnings of the Great Depression, his family moved to the United States in 1925, settling in the Cincinnati suburb of Hamilton, Ohio.

Galbraith attended the University of Miami in Ohio, where he found a mentor specializing in the history of the British Empire.

After earning his bachelor's degree in 1938, he went on to receive a master's and doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1939 and 1943.

For three years, he served as historian for the Army Air Forces and he joined UCLA's history faculty in 1947.

In more than 25 years at UCLA, Galbraith taught courses in the histories of Canada, South Africa and the British Empire. His work carried him to England, South Africa, India, Canada and Australia.

Among his books is "The Hudson's Bay Company As an Imperial Factor," which "established his reputation as a scholar of the first rank," a longtime friend and colleague, professor Samuel McCulloch, said in 1996. He added that Galbraith's book "Reluctant Empire: British Policy on the South African Frontier" was notable in the field.

After four years as chancellor at San Diego, Galbraith left for a fellowship at Cambridge University in England -- a decision he said he never regretted.

When he returned, he resumed his history professorship at UCLA, where he remained until 1984, after which he taught at UCSD until his retirement in 1993.

The school's undergraduate library was named the John and Laura Galbraith Hall in 1986 after the former chancellor and his wife.

"It is especially fitting that our modern undergraduate library is housed in Galbraith Hall, because undergraduate education and university libraries were two of John's passions," former UCSD Chancellor Robert C. Dynes, who was named UC president Wednesday, said in a statement released Tuesday. "You cannot walk more than a few yards on this campus without seeing John's imprint."

Galbraith is survived by his wife of almost 63 years, Laura; three children: James M. Galbraith of San Marino, John H. Galbraith of Venice and Mary P. Galbraith of Claremont; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Two of his children and two of his grandchildren are teachers.

Memorial funds may be sent to the UC San Diego Foundation for the John and Laura M. Galbraith Library at the University of California, San Diego.

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