Generosity of Angelenos
Published May 16, 2014 8:00 AM
From the beginning, the people of Los Angeles have lent their support to UCLA and rallied to its needs.
In 1925, University of California Regent Edward A. Dickson’s newspaper, the Los Angeles Evening Express, supported ballot initiative Proposition 2 and predicted its passage. The bond measure, designed to raise taxpayer funds for a permanent UCLA campus in Westwood, promised to help establish “what without doubt is destined to become one of the world’s greatest universities.”
Sharing Dickson’s vision was UCLA’s first chief executive, Ernest Carroll Moore. But Moore knew it would take more than just public support to create a world-class institution; private contributions would be key. With few alumni in those days, he turned to local entrepreneurs and philanthropists, who eagerly answered the call.
“[When] the Southern Branch of the University of California was started at Los Angeles it rapidly came into such marked favor,” Moore wrote in his account of UCLA’s early days, I Helped Make a University, “that young as it was and hardly permanently settled, it nevertheless began to be the recipient of gifts of large size and of fairly frequent occurrence.”
UCLA’s “first great gift” came from William Andrews Clark Jr., son of a mining mogul and one-time U.S. senator from Montana. Clark lived in an estate on West Adams Boulevard that included a library of 13,000 volumes, including rare editions of works by Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dryden. In 1926, he offered the property and his prized collection to the university. Upon his death in 1934, the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library — and a $1.5-million endowment for its preservation — passed to UCLA.
Smaller gifts from notable names built or enhanced campus landmarks. In 1930, brothers Harold and Edwin Janss contributed $50,000, funding the construction of Janss Steps, and Della Mullock Mudd donated $52,500 for the great pipe organ in Royce Hall. Other donors acquired book collections to grow the on-campus library.
Moore then turned his attention to a student union. He found a supporter in William G. Kerckhoff, an industrialist and hydroelectric-power pioneer. Kerckhoff took ill before plans for the building could be formulated, but on his deathbed instructed his wife to provide the necessary funds. Kerckhoff Hall was dedicated on Jan. 20, 1931, the result of Louise Kerckhoff’s gift of $815,000 — $715,000 for the structure and $100,000 for its furnishings — and her commitment to making the site honoring her husband’s memory the finest student gathering place.
Later that year, UCLA opened its first dormitory, Mira Hershey Hall, thanks to a $300,000 bequest from Almira “Mira” Hershey, a philanthropist who founded Good Hope Hospital for the less fortunate and owned the Hollywood Hotel, a once-popular destination for movie stars and studio executives. A distant relative of chocolate king Milton S. Hershey, she also left $100,000 to create a student loan fund.
The contributions of these well-heeled citizens were vital to the growth of UCLA. Perhaps no individuals were more appreciative than the university’s students, who dedicated the 1931 yearbook to these early benefactors. As stated in the foreword, the Associated Students wanted “to express their gratitude to the donors for these kindnesses bestowed, and what is valued more highly, the spirit which prompted the giving; for this spirit is the foundation upon which the University is builded [sic].”