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Sight Site


By From the files of the UCLA History Project

Published Oct 1, 2010 8:00 AM


Among the 300 celebrants at the 1964 groundbreaking for the Jules Stein Eye Institute were, from left to right: Bette Davis, Jules Stein, Cesar Romero, Gene Kelly, Bob Hope and project architect Rodney Hemsworth.

At the Sept. 22, 1964, groundbreaking for the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, which the Los Angeles Times called the largest project ever conceived for eye research, education and treatment, Bob Hope couldn't resist a quip.

"Stein has contributed this wonderful clinic to treat the eye problems that come from the TV programs he makes," said the legendary jokester.

As befitting a philanthropist who was one of Hollywood’s biggest players, the Stein scene had all the elements of a Hollywood production, including a brass band and UCLA Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy serving as superintendent of the excavation, with Stein at the helm of the machinery. Doris Stein, Jules' wife, christened the event by breaking a bottle of champagne on a tractor.

Although known for establishing the Music Corporation of America and as an agent for many leading Hollywood personalities, Stein had a background in ophthalmology. The $6-million cost of the institute was financed by his initial pledge of $1.25 million, along with gifts from individuals, businesses, foundations, university funds and a federal grant.

Drawing the Line

For a timeline of other notable moments in UCLA history, visit the UCLA History Project Timeline

The five-level, 83,000-square-foot structure — designed by Welton Becket and Associates — was dedicated two years later and could serve more than 2,000 patients per month. Design features included a children’s area complete with a sculptured ceramic "Small World"-inspired mural created for the institute under the supervision of Walt Disney.

Today, the Jules Stein Eye Institute is repeatedly ranked the No. 1 eye-care center in the western United States. In May 2010, Chancellor Gene Block announced that UCLA and the Wasserman family finalized plans to launch a new research and patient-care facility on campus called the Edie and Lew Wasserman Building. The project has its roots in the 1960s, when Lew Wasserman, Stein and Murphy imagined a trio of facilities — including the Doris Stein Eye Research Center, completed in 1989 — dedicated to restoring and preserving eyesight.