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Book opens chapters in campus history

By Susanne Rockwell on February 15, 2002 in University News

Since UC Davis first opened its gate to students as the University Farm almost 100 years ago, the campus has been making history. Now a new book, Abundant Harvest: The History of the University of California, Davis, describes the evolution of the campus from its modest roots to becoming an internationally renowned research and teaching institution.

Nearly five years in the making, the book was written by Capay Valley resident Ann Foley Scheuring, a UC Davis alumna and former employee. The project was sponsored by the UC Davis emeriti and retirees associations as well as the UC Davis Foundation and James H. Meyer Fellows, who issued a $150,000 challenge grant for the project. More than $300,000 was raised to underwrite research and publishing.

"The story of the University of California at Davis is not only the story of an important University of California campus, it is in many ways the story of California itself," says Kevin Starr, California state librarian, in the book's foreword.

He points out that UC Davis has always faced the challenge of the state itself: meeting the needs of population and economic growth, harnessing science and technology, and dealing with the deepest mysteries of human experience through the arts and humanities.

Among the historical nuggets in the book:

  • During World War I, UC Davis almost became a training camp for 450 U.S. Army cavalry soldiers. After the war, the Army stationed one of its thorough-bred stallions at Davis for 10 years to improve local horse breeding.
  • During the 1930s, the young John Kenneth Galbraith - later to become famous as a Harvard economist and diplomat - taught accounting, economics and farm management on the Davis campus while completing his dissertation at UC Berkeley.
  • Members of UC Davis' fledgling chemistry department played an early role in the Manhattan Project that eventually developed the atomic bomb during World War II.
  • UC Davis researchers revolutionized the sugar beet, tomato and strawberry industries by developing mechanical harvesters and improved varieties.
  • UC Davis faculty members and administrators dealt with the Vietnam War and student protests by instituting teach-ins on the Quad that have continued as a tradition to this day.

In addition to covering the campus's early beginnings and its growth, the book describes the evolving character of the faculty, staff and student body, as well as the academic enterprise itself and the founding of new schools and colleges.

Abundant Harvest is available at the UC Davis Bookstore, 752-6846. Hardcover copies are expected to be available later in the month.