UC Davis Administration
(Flash video, 1 hr 4 min)
Produced by the UC Davis Emeriti Association
Download Adobe Flash (free)
History in the making: Administration
UC Davis’ mid-century administrators, whose fields ranged from library science to microbiology and animal science, tell the story of how they built a major research university from scratch. These were the men who laid the foundations for our robust library, enlightened academic plan and renowned health system.
Here are interviews from the documentary:
- Richard Blanchard and James Schideler
- Clark Kerr
- Everett Carter
- Arthur Small
- James Meyer
- Elmer Learn
- Alan Marr
Richard Blanchard and James Schideler
Richard Blanchard, who arrived in 1951 to replace Nelle Branch as university librarian, and historian James Schideler, who arrived in 1945, reminisce. Blanchard devoted himself to traveling across the country and to Europe to purchase collections of books to fill up the new library, among them a prized folio of Shakespeare’s works. “Davis was not a cow college, it was just a piece of a cow college,” Schideler says. “In fact, I remember I had drawn up a plan for how to serve a campus with 5,000 students with an adequate library,” Blanchard says. “One day I brought it in, Stan looked over my brief statement and turned his chair and looked out over the Quad and said, ‘Dick, we’ll never have 5,000 students at Davis.’”
Clark Kerr, who was Berkeley’s chancellor before assuming the presidency of the University of California from 1958 to 1967, appointed Emil Mrak as UC Davis’ second chancellor. It was an important appointment: After a half-century of existence as a branch of UC Berkeley, UC Davis had been declared an independent general campus of the university on Oct. 23, 1959. Kerr’s challenge at UC Davis was to expand the campus curriculum to go beyond agriculture. “I’ve always looked on Davis as the most loyal of the universities,” he says.
As the first vice chancellor under Emil Mrak, Everett Carter wrote UC Davis’ original academic plan. This English literature scholar had joined the faculty in 1957. He envisioned a “general campus” that emphasized other aspects of education, including liberal arts, a much broader plan than UC Davis’ original focus on agricultural science. “There was a great deal of fear at the time that the obviously very great and very excellent agricultural college would be de-emphasized.”
Art Small transitioned from serving as vice chancellor of business and finance under Chancellor Emil Mrak into James Meyer’s administration in 1969. He reports on the administrative changes when Meyer became chancellor. Small helped to create a system that simplified and centralized the policy process on various matters. “I came up with the idea that what the campus needs is what in the Army we used to call a set of Army regulations. … I thought it would be good to start in the university,” he says.
James Meyer, who served as UC Davis’ third chancellor, first endured troubled political times by being a consensus-builder and later worked on the expansion of UC Davis into a mature university. (UC Davis archival photo)
James Meyer, who was UC Davis’ third chancellor, took the helm from 1969-1987. Known for his calming influence in moments of crisis, Meyer, an animal scientist, is also remembered for presiding over departments that made lasting adjustments to their trajectory toward high-quality education. He’s also known for helping install the Women’s Research and Resources Center and the Graduate School of Management on campus, as well as to affiliate the campus with the Sacramento County Hospital that transformed into the UC Davis Medical Center and, ultimately, into the UC Davis Health System.
Agricultural economist Elmer Learn was executive vice chancellor under Chancellor James Meyer, who put him in charge of the budget for health sciences, among other duties. Meyer interviews Learn for this video. Learn was responsible for UC Davis’ affiliation with the county hospital, Sacramento Medical Center, which in the ensuing four decades blossomed into the UC Davis Health System, with a vigorous campus in Sacramento. “In December of 1970, the county, seeing troubles on the horizon with MediCal program essentially came to us with an ultimatum: Either we would assume responsibility for operation and financing of the county hospital or they would cancel the affiliation.”
Alan Marr served as dean of graduate studies under James Meyer, who was chancellor from 1969 to 1987. His academic training was in microbiology. Marr says he admired the military-like organization and command of Meyer, whose philosophy was to have his subordinates be in charge of their own work.