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University plans big for 2008 centennial

By Dave Jones on June 2, 2006 in University

A university committee is brainstorming for the UC Davis centennial celebration in 2008-09, and the campus community is invited to participate.

Consider some of the many ideas already on the table: showcase 100 notable alumni; publish a book of 100 ways that UC Davis has changed the world; plant a centennial tree grove; erect a centennial sculpture; put up banners, posters and billboards around the region.

And, in a nod to Davis' affinity for bicycling: organize a centennial bike race and open a bike museum.

"We want the campus community to start thinking about the centennial," said Lisa Lapin, assistant vice chancellor for University Communications who is working with the centennial advisory committee assembled by Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. "There's the potential for a lot of good celebrations. We want people to get excited about the possibilities."

The centennial is two years away — not that far off, really, when you consider the time that the university will need to put the celebration together, Lapin said. Major academic symposia and speaking engagements must be lined up months in advance, for example.

Elsewhere around campus, "We're asking units to think creatively about their routine events and making them extra special."

Lapin said centennial events are likely to be clustered around two of the university's signature events: Fall Convocation in 2008 and Picnic Day in the spring of 2009. But the committee anticipates a schedule of events covering the rest of the academic year, too, coinciding with the period 100 years earlier when the then-University Farm accepted its first students.

The university and city already have marked other centennial events: March 18, 2005, the anniversary of Gov. Pardee's signing of legislation authorizing a University Farm, and April 5, 2006, the anniversary of a state commission's selection of Davisville (later shortened to Davis) as the farm site.

For its 75th anniversary year, 1983-84, UC Davis built and dedicated a brick entryway to mark the site of the farm's original entrance near First and A streets. The entrance symbolizes the gate where the university took possession of its newly acquired farmland just after midnight on Sept. 1, 1905. The farm admitted its first students in 1907, but classes were postponed for a year to 1908.

"Look at how far we've come from being the University Farm to one of the most comprehensive campuses in the UC system," Lapin said. "There is no other campus that can claim the diverse strengths that we have" — from law and business and science and the arts, to human and veterinary medicine.

In its 75th anniversary year, UC Davis launched a development program charged with fundraising efforts, and, for the first time, began using a logo — the campus seal with an anniversary element included — that provided a consistent visual identity. Also, the Cal Aggie Alumni Association became more firmly established and it partnered with the university in a new publication, UC Davis Magazine.

"Our 75th was like a coming-of-age," Lapin said. "Our 100th has the potential to do that for us again."

Bob Kerr agrees. He coordinated the 75th anniversary celebration and today serves as assistant vice provost for international alumni and development.

He described the 1983-84 celebration as "homegrown," with commemorative artwork by faculty and staff, and specially bottled wine from alumni vintners. He said the university focused on its past, present and future, and set forth new commitments to communications, development and alumni relations.

"If there were still any deans around from that time, they would say that we advanced the position of UC Davis," he said. "It was the beginning of our sensitivity to the fact that we needed to promote ourselves."

Likewise, Vanderhoef described the centennial as "an opportunity for UC Davis to celebrate its past accomplishments, highlight its future direction, and focus attention on the entire scope and breadth of the institution."

The advisory committee has established four goals:

  • Raise UC Davis' overall profile and stature, increase visibility and enthusiasm, and solidify confidence and pride.
  • Increase engagement and reinforce campus connections with alumni, donors, academic peers, opinion leaders, the local community and students, faculty and staff.
  • Establish institutional priorities for the next century and convey a renewed identity for the campus.
  • Recognize a century of campus achievements. In everything from research findings to prominent alumni, and celebrate the results of public and private investment in UC Davis.

The advisory committee has a deadline of July 5 to forward recommendations for centennial events and a resource allocation plan to the chancellor.

Know where a time capsule might be buried from 100 years ago or 75 years ago or 25 years ago? Have ideas for the Centennial celebration? E-mail

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,