A 650-acre spot called the San Joaquin foothills was sold by the Irvine Company for $1 to the University of California. Pereira pronounced it “majestic.” Donald Cameron, an urban planner who worked for Pereira, described it as “one of the great bargains of all time.”
The first three times Clark Kerr asked, Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. said no. But he slowly warmed to the idea of starting a campus from scratch. On December 6, 1961, Kerr asked a third time, and Aldrich finally said yes. The path for the rest of Aldrich’s life was set: He was a founding chancellor.
UCI opens with founding academic divisions of biological sciences, engineering, fine arts, humanities, physical sciences and social science, and graduate school in administration (later management). Only 1,589 were enrolled.
Unlike most colleges, UCI was not named after an existing city. The city of Irvine did not become incorporated until 1971, six years after the creation of the campus.
The idea for the Anteater mascot came from students Pat Glasgow and Bob Ernst, two water polo players, who were inspired by the anteater in the Johnny Hart comic strip “B.C.” The Anteater was elected as the official UCI mascot on Nov. 30, 1965.
UCI’s first graduating class comprised just 14 students. A commencement dinner took place June 25, 1966, in what is now known as the Libraries Gateway Study Center.
Ten bachelor's degrees, three master's degrees and one doctorate were awarded.
In 1967, UC Irvine acquired the California College of Medicine (originally founded in 1896 as the Pacific Sanitarium & School of Osteopathy), which later became the School of Medicine. Today the school houses 26 departments and employs more than 550 faculty members.
Recognizing a need to connect new alumni with the budding campus, UCI launched its Alumni Association in 1968. At the time, UCI had an alumni base of approximately 600, including those with bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate and medical degrees. Today, UCI’s alumni community is made up of more than 180,000.
Ten years after opening its doors to its first cohort of students, UCI established the Cross-Cultural Center. The first of its kind in the University of California system, the CCC aims to create a socially just campus by fostering cultural identities and providing opportunities for community engagement.
Extension registered 26,000 enrollments during 1974-75, making it one of the largest such programs in the state.
The first UCI course, “The Chancellor’s Lecture Series,” was offered by University Extension in 1962, three years before the campus opened for classes.
UCI Enrolls 10,000+ Students
By fall quarter of 1979, UCI reached new heights in student enrollment. More than 10,000 students from across the state and around the world chose UCI to earn their degrees.
UCI’s first official Homecoming celebration took place in conjunction with the grand opening of the campus’s student center in January 1981. Festivities included coronation of a king and queen, a basketball game and dance.
As a doctoral student, Roy Fielding, ’88, M.S. ’93, Ph.D. ’00, worked as the principle author of hypertext transfer protocol, changing the way computer users transfer documents and browse the Web.
UCI Professors Frederick Reines and F. Sherwood Rowland received Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry, respectively.
In 1996, UCI became the youngest university to join the prestigious Association of American Universities, a group of 62 leading public and private research institutions in the United States and Canada. AAU members are consistently recognized for excellence in academic research and scholarship.
Professor of physiology & biophysics Irwin Rose was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, or how the body’s cellular building blocks facilitate the breakdown of old and damaged proteins.
During UCI’s annual Welcome Week festivities in 2010, UCI students broke the Guinness world record for largest dodgeball game. With 1,745 participants, the campus took the title previously held by the University of Alberta. Since that initial victory, UCI has continued to hold world record attempts during Welcome Week, with activities such as a giant pillow fight, four-square dodgeball, capture the flag and water blaster battle.
President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address on Saturday, June 14, 2014, at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the campus’s dedication by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Obama gave kudos to UCI for being “ahead of the curve”.
Campus Enrollment Breaks 30,000 Students
In the fall of 2014, UCI enrollment hit an all-time high of 30,000 students.
In 2015, UCI men’s basketball team made history with its first Big West Conference Tournament championship and first March Madness appearance. The No. 13-seeded Anteaters took on the No. 4-seeded University of Louisville in the NCAA second round on March 20, but fell to the Cardinals 57-55. Read more here.
Chemistry doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai unlocked the secret to creating batteries with the capability of being recharged hundreds of thousands of times, propelling the development of commercial batteries with long-lasting lifespans for computers, smartphones, appliances, cars and spacecraft.
The U.S. Department of Education named UCI a Hispanic-serving institution for 2017-18, meaning that fully one-quarter of undergraduates identify as Latino and that half of all students receive financial aid. The designation increases the campus’s ability to secure funding for student support services, laboratory equipment, financial aid, faculty development and other resources.
For a more comprehensive list of events, visit our timeline here.
To find more information about university's history, visit the 50th Anniversary website and the Special Collections & Archives below.