UCLA

100 Ways: Athletics

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Published May 13, 2019 12:09 PM


Barrier Breaker

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson was always a fighter, but he never planned to become a living symbol of the fight against racial injustice. His breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball was not only one of the greatest acts of societal defiance in the 20th century, but also one of the most influential events in the fight for equal rights.

Born in Georgia in 1919, Robinson attended high school and junior college in Pasadena before matriculating at UCLA, where he became the first athlete to letter in four sports.


Robinson served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army during World War II, but he never saw combat: He was arrested and court-martialed during boot camp for refusing to move to the back of a segregated bus. Ultimately cleared of the charges and honorably discharged, he spent 1945 playing in the Negro Baseball League and was later approached by Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey about playing for the team.

In 1947, Robinson joined the Dodgers as the first African American to play in the major leagues since 1889. He earned Rookie of the Year honors, but the award does not define that first season. What’s remembered are the abuses Robinson endured — from fans, from fellow players, from the media — and the extraordinary poise and strength he demonstrated as he stoically went about doing his job. Robinson was supported along the way by his wife, Rachel ’42, a fellow Bruin whom he met at UCLA.

After a career in baseball, Robinson became an activist for social change, working to create opportunities for minorities as a coffee company executive and helping to establish the Freedom National Bank, owned and operated by African Americans. Nine days before his death in 1972, Robinson called out baseball for not yet hiring an African-American manager. Jackie Robinson kept fighting right until the end.


Learning from the Past

Earthquake Science

Preparing for natural disasters is an ongoing pursuit — new developments in nature often move at the same speed as new technological advancements. But with disasters as large as earthquakes, time is of the essence.

Scott Brandenberg, professor of civil and environmental engineering, studies how earthquakes impact the built environment. His work includes the creation of an international database on liquefaction, which occurs when soil flows like a liquid and causes land — as well as the buildings on it — to slide. Part of his goal is to standardize the science of liquefaction. “We’ve never really had a database that was available to the whole community,” he says.

The use of city-spanning earthquake data is growing, as UCLA researchers develop plans to integrate systems and earthquake consciousness into city operations. Ken Hudnut, a geophysicist for Risk Reduction at the U.S. Geological Survey, advises the L.A. Mayor’s Office of Resilience. He knows that when disasters strike, good data and good preparation result in less chaos.

Not only does UCLA’s work impact those outside Los Angeles, but researchers’ work here also draws upon resources from outside the community. Engineering Professor Ertugrul Taciroglu, who studies earthquake effects on urban infrastructure, uses images from Google to visually analyze infrastructures and develop simulation models.

Practitioners outside UCLA say that the work achieved on campus is making a difference. Ronald T. Eguchi ’74, M.S. ’75, president and CEO of ImageCat, oversees the creation of earthquake maps and hazard exposure models for buildings and infrastructure.

“Without [the UCLA] research, I don’t think we’d be able to come up with these quantitative assessments,” Eguchi says.


Jonathan Stewart, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been collecting global data on the impact of earthquakes on levees and their associated drinking water systems.

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