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Riverside: Historical Overview

On authority of the University's Board of Regents, granted February 14, 1907, 23 acres of land on the eastern slope of Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside were leased for an experiment station to conduct investigations in horticultural management, fertilization, irrigation, fruit handling, improvement of varieties, and related subjects. The laboratory remained at this location until 1917, when it was moved to a site on the western slope of the Box Springs Mountains.

The Rubidoux Laboratory
Ralph E. Smith assumed responsibility for both the Rubidoux laboratory and the University's Southern California Pathological Laboratory at Whittier until 1911, when he was succeeded by J. Eliot Coit. Professor Herbert John Webber of Cornell was appointed Dean of the Graduate School of Tropical Agriculture and director of the Citrus Experiment Station in 1913. He was succeeded by Leon D. Batchelor in 1929, and he in turn was followed by Alfred M. Boyce in 1952. By 1957, when the fiftieth anniversary was celebrated, the staff had increased from the original two to 265, composed of 115 academic personnel assisted by 150 research technicians; the experiment station had a complex of laboratory and office buildings, greenhouses, and many acres of experimental plantings. Its activities covered nearly every crop grown in Southern California and had extended to numerous foreign areas. In 1961, to reflect its expanded program, the name was changed to Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station.

The Riverside Campus is Born
In the meantime, University President Robert Gordon Sproul had advanced the idea that the University of California should have as one of its units a small college of liberal arts, similar in purpose and quality to the best private institutions in the east. He persuaded Gordon S. Watkins, former dean of the College of Letters and Science at the Los Angeles campus, to undertake the organization of such a college at Riverside. Professor Watkins accepted the assignment in 1949, and, after five difficult years of planning, faculty recruitment, and building construction, presided as first provost at the opening of the College of Letters and Science, with 131 students, in February of 1954. Part of the plan was to establish four divisions rather than numerous departments: humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, and life sciences. There was also a University library and a Department of Physical Education. The original buildings, surrounding a broad expanse of lawn, reflected this academic pattern. There were a centrally located library, a gymnasium, separate buildings for physical sciences and life sciences, and a building for the humanities and social sciences.

The academic program, placing primary emphasis on excellent teaching, with special incentives for student achievement, was successful to the extent that soon after Provost Watkins left Riverside in 1956, a survey of colleges and universities in the Chicago Tribune listed University of California, Riverside, as one of the ten best undergraduate colleges in the nation.

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The Campus Grows
When Herman T. Spieth became provost in 1956 (chancellor in 1958), the national population explosion was already well documented, and it soon became clear that California's system of higher education would need radical expansion and replanning. By the spring of 1959, the Regents, in advance of legislative approval of the Master Plan for Higher Education in California, had decided that Riverside must become a general campus, offering professional and graduate instruction and engaging in broad programs of research and public service. The task of Spieth's regime, which extended to 1964, was to combine the College of Letters and Science and the Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station into a single operational entity and to expand activities in numerous directions. A symbol of the objective was the appointment of Robert A. Nisbet, dean of the College of Letters and Science in the formative years, as vice-chancellor of academic affairs for the entire campus in 1960.

The College of Agriculture, offering undergraduate instruction in a novel integrated agricultural science curriculum, was established in 1960 with Boyce as dean. The Graduate Division, embracing programs both in letters and science and in agriculture, opened in 1961, and almost immediately, under Dean Ralph B. March, became one of the fastest-growing graduate schools in the nation, attracting students from many foreign countries. A completely revised ten-year building program was prepared and carried partially to completion, adding research facilities for graduate instruction and providing for general expansion.

During this same period the Air Pollution Research Center and the Dry-Lands Research Institute were established, both mobilizing the resources of the entire campus. A new dimension was given to research in life sciences by the gift of the Philip L. Boyd Desert Research Center of 10,000 acres situated near Palm Desert.

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Riverside in the 1960's
To meet the needs of increasing enrollment at all levels and particularly the demands of graduate instruction, the divisional plan for the College of Letters and Science was abandoned, and a departmental structure was completed in July, 1963. At the same time Thomas P. Jenkin of UCLA became full-time dean.

The development of Riverside as a general campus continued at an accelerated pace under the administration of Ivan Hinderaker, who became chancellor in the fall of 1964. Active planning was begun for schools of engineering and administration. Effective steps were taken to enrich extra-curricular activities for students with the establishment of "language houses" in the residence halls, a concert band, a political forum and debate team, a student fine arts workshop, and a campus radio station.


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