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Bunche's Tall Tales

From the files of the UCLA History Project


Published Apr 1, 2006 12:00 AM

When Nobel laureate and former
Bruin basketball player Ralph
J. Bunche and his wife, Ruth,
bumped into UCLA basketball player
Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-
Jabbar) '69 outside the Bunche Hall
dedication ceremonies on May
23, 1969, longtime campus
photographer Thelner Hoover '30
caught the moment for posterity.

Bunche Hall, as many readers undoubtedly know, was not always called Bunche Hall. Like everything else on campus, there's a bunch of Bunche stories, and some of them are even true. Two of the three tales below are, for example. One, however, is completely nuts. Can you guess which one? (Don't worry, we tell you which myth is which on the next page.)

  • When the 11-story, Maynard Lyndon-designed edifice opened in 1964, it was called the Social Sciences Building in honor of the departments that would be housed there. It didn't take long, however, for students to christen the new building "The Waffle" for its resemblance to the breakfast treat
  • By any name, a big problem surrounding the building arose almost immediately when Caltrans received reports about drivers on the nearby San Diego Freeway being blinded by sunlight bouncing off the Waffle's tinted windows. Jet Propul-sion Laboratory engineers came up with the idea of picking up the Waffle with a gigantic crane, rotating it, and placing it on stilts to kill the glare.
  • In the summer of 1968, the building was renamed for Ralph J. Bunche '27, co-founder and longtime undersecretary of the United Nations and the first person of color to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for his diplomacy in the Middle East.
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