MENU
Skip to content Skip to navigation

NEWEST UC CAMPUS OFFICIALLY OPENS IN MERCED

September 5, 2005

MERCED, CA - With a stirring tribute to its 137-year history and
a message of hope for the future, the University of California
today officially opened its first new campus in 40 years - the
University of California, Merced - and welcomed the inaugural class
of students.

UC Merced becomes the 10th campus in the country’s largest
university system. It is the first UC campus ever built in the
fast-growing San Joaquin Valley and the first American research
university of the 21st century.

“You have aimed high and worked hard to reach this glorious
day,” UC President Robert C. Dynes told a cheering throng of
faculty, staff, students, parents, community leaders, elected
officials, donors and others attending the 90-minute convocation
and opening ceremony. “This is a very proud day for our system and
our state.”

The opening of UC Merced comes 17 years after the UC Board of
Regents first recommended adding a new campus to accommodate the
state’s rapidly growing population. Merced was chosen as the site
in 1995, and groundbreaking began in 2002. The opening, originally
scheduled for the fall of 2004, was pushed back a year as a result
of the state’s budgetary problems.

“UC Merced will help fulfill the promise of access to qualified
students from all over the state,” said Gerald Parsky, chairman of
the UC Board of Regents. Noting that nearly one-half the students
in UC Merced’s inaugural class will be the first in their families
to go to college, he added, “We look forward to this new campus to
help inspire the educational dreams of young people and their
families throughout the Valley and the rest of the state for
generations to come.”

Historically, college-attendance rates in the state’s interior
valleys have averaged about half that of the state as a whole,
according to public records. The absence of a college-going culture
is often cited as a root cause of the region’s higher than average
unemployment and poverty rates.

“We look for UC Merced’s presence - its faculty, its research,
its alumni - to spark an economic renaissance for the Valley,” said
Parsky. He cited San Diego, Santa Cruz and Orange County as
examples of regions where UC research has spawned entirely new
industries and triggered major economic growth.

“Almost all of the industries in which California now leads the
world grew out of university-based research,” he said. “More than
1,000 California biotech, high-tech and other R&D-intensive
companies put UC research to work every day.”

UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who has guided
development of the new campus since her appointment in 1999,
recalled the Gold Rush-era roots of the University of California
and the conviction of the state’s early leaders to create a
university to serve the people.

“Beginnings like today offer great promise,” she said. “We have
seen the humble, rural beginnings of nine other UC campuses turn
into millions of alumni leading the world, thousands of innovative
ideas, and artistic creations that thrill the soul. UC Merced
resolves to reach that same high standard.”

“I hope each of you takes great pride in the students and
faculty assembled here for they will turn this campus into a
perfect 10,” she added.

In his keynote address, Merced native Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.,
a professor at Harvard Law School and executive director of the
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard,
spoke of the transforming effects the college experience will have
on the lives of UC Merced’s inaugural class. Ogletree is a Merced
High School graduate who went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s
degrees from Stanford University and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

“As you pursue your education here at UC Merced, you will meet
people, engage in serious debate, change your point of view, and
ultimately grow intellectually and emotionally, in this rich and
challenging educational environment,” he said. “These experiences
will profoundly affect you, today and tomorrow, and when you have a
moment to reflect on your brilliant career, the time at UC Merced
will be viewed as a crucial turning point in your life.”

Following his address, Ogletree was named the first recipient of
the Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy
and Tolerance. The award, to be given annually by UC Merced,
recognizes a scholar, author, artist or citizen “who exemplifies in
their work the delivery of social justice, diplomacy and tolerance
in the diverse local and global society.” It is named for a San
Joaquin Valley couple, both long-time educators and advocates of
social justice, and is made possible by a $500,000 gift to the
university by the couple’s daughter, Sherrie Spendlove-Gallo.

Symbolizing the pioneering spirit of the first class, three
students - a first-year student, a transfer student from Merced
College and a graduate student - rode to today’s opening ceremony
in a covered wagon. They were followed by a lengthy procession of
students, parents, founding faculty and staff, donors, trustees and
UC officials.

UC Merced will begin classes tomorrow with 55 founding faculty
members recruited from some of the world’s leading universities.
Approximately 1,000 students, including 38 graduate students, will
comprise the inaugural class. Nearly 600 students moved into
brand-new university housing and christened the state-of-the-art
dining facility over the weekend. The remainder will commute or
live in off-campus housing.

The university expects to add approximately 800 students per
year for the next 30 years, ultimately topping out at approximately
25,000 students.