UCOP > A Brief History of the University of California > The University Builders >

President Wheeler

The Faculty Revolution

Growth of the Campuses

The Modern University

President Sproul

The Loyalty Oath

Progress and Problems

The Chancellorship

The Multiversity

Achievements of the 1960s


Chapter 12: The Modern University

William Wallace Campbell, a professor of astronomy and for many years director of Lick Observatory, served as President of the University in the important years 1923-30. His administration was characterized by steady growth and rising enrollments, the latter trend continuing even when the onset of the Depression foreshadowed a curtailment of physical development.

Until the 1930s, the University remained a lively but predominantly regional institution. If one year can be said to have marked a turning point, it was 1934. That year the American Council on Education asked 2,000 leading scholars of the United States to analyze the graduate schools of the nation's universities.

The survey covered thirty-six fields of learning. Universities were rated on the basis of their "distinguished" or "adequate" departments. For the first time, the Ivy League was compelled to acknowledge serious competition in the West. The University of California rated as many distinguished and adequate departments as any university in the country. This was only the beginning of a great surge forward.



Wheeler oak and steps, a favorite gathering place in the 1920s.

Photograph courtesy University Archives.


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Last updated 09/29/05.