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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Regional History Project has been documenting the history of the Central Coast of California and the institutional history of UC Santa Cruz since 1963, through oral history, a method of conducting historical research through recorded interviews between a narrator with personal experience of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with the goal of adding to the historical record.

Cover page of “Study what is in your backyard”: Professor Virginia Jansen and the UC Santa Cruz Campus

“Study what is in your backyard”: Professor Virginia Jansen and the UC Santa Cruz Campus

(2021)

Virginia Jansen was raised in Dayton, Ohio and attended Smith College as an undergraduate, where she earned a degree in German language and literature. She earned her PhD at UC Berkeley in the History of Art. After a few years teaching at colleges in the Bay Area, Jansen arrived at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the fall of 1975 to teach medieval art and architecture for the Art Department (or Art Board, as it was then known), where she taught for more than three decades.

In the mid-seventies, UCSC had no freestanding program in art history and Jansen helped build an art history major at the fledgling university. Her passion for delving into the history of architecture inspired her to turn to “study what is in your backyard” and focus on the unique architecture of the UC Santa Cruz campus. She soon became known as an expert on campus planning and architecture and in 1986 co-taught an undergraduate art history seminar entitled The History and Implementation of the Santa Cruz Campus Plan with the Reyner Banham, the renowned English architectural critic, who was a professor of art history at UC Santa Cruz in the 1980s. That course resulted in an UCSC exhibit and book The First 20 Years: Two Decades of Building at UCSC.

Decades later, in 2015, Jansen once again contributed her knowledge of campus architecture by working with UCSC emeriti professors James Clifford, Michael Cowan, and Campus Architect Frank Zwart on another UCSC history exhibit called An Uncommon Place: Shaping the UCSC Campus. This exhibit, mounted at Porter College’s Sesnon Gallery as part of the celebration of UCSC’s 50th anniversary, “called attention to UC Santa Cruz as utopian experiment where architecture and environment conspire to create an uncommon place, a setting for teaching, research and imagination outside the bounds of the ordinary.”

https://exhibits.library.ucsc.edu/exhibits/show/an-uncommon-place/constructing-the-core

Cover page of From the Mysteries of the Universe to the Mysteries of the Univers-ity: An Oral History with UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal

From the Mysteries of the Universe to the Mysteries of the Univers-ity: An Oral History with UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal

(2021)

George R. Blumenthal arrived at UC Santa Cruz in 1972 as a young faculty member in astronomy and astrophysics. Thirty-five years later, on September 19, 2007, he became UCSC’s tenth chancellor, after serving as acting chancellor for fourteen months. Blumenthal dedicated thirteen years of his life to being chancellor of UC Santa Cruz. This oral history was transcribed from forty interviews recorded between June 2018 and July 2019 and encompasses Chancellor Blumenthal’s long and distinguished career at UC Santa Cruz and with the University of California system. Long before he became chancellor, Blumenthal served the campus in diverse capacities; he was the faculty representative to the UC Regents (2003-05); chaired the UC Santa Cruz division of the Academic Senate (2001-03); and served as chair of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department twice. But not only does this oral history cover almost fifty years of UCSC’s history—from the early years of Oakes College under Provost J. Herman Blake, to the impacts of the defunding of public higher education in more recent years—it is also infused with Blumenthal’s insider’s viewpoint on the University of California system that he gained as vice-chair of the UC Academic Senate (2003-2004); chair of UC Academic Senate (2004-05); and experience serving on many other UC-wide committees and endeavors. In 2010, Blumenthal received the Oliver Johnson Award for Distinguished Leadership in the Academic Senate, the top UC honor for service at both the systemwide and campus levels. This volume is thus both an oral history of UC Santa Cruz and of the University of California system as a whole and is an invaluable primary resource for those seeking to understand the history of both this unique campus in the redwoods and the intricate political history of the University of California system.

Cover page of The Empty Year: An Oral History of the Pandemic(s) of 2020 at UC Santa Cruz

The Empty Year: An Oral History of the Pandemic(s) of 2020 at UC Santa Cruz

(2021)

 At the University of California, Santa Cruz and across the world, 2020 was a year of not just the COVID-19 pandemic, but pandemics, plural. While the pandemic can be mapped and tracked and tallied with numbers, for it to be understood and felt for many, if not most people, we need stories. This collection of twenty-two oral history interviews, gathered in late 2020 by UCSC students under the auspices of the Library’s Regional History Project, is an impressionistic illustration of an unstable present, exploring a range of ways people have encountered and interpreted this time. Some narrators speak primarily of racism and racial justice; for others, COVID-19 is in the extreme foreground. Others raise questions of economic justice in America and more locally for graduate students at UCSC; still others address climate change, since the CZU Lightning Complex fires also exploded across Santa Cruz County in 2020 and nearly consumed the campus itself. 

A hardback version of this book can be purchased online from Lulu.com at:

https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/irene-reti-and-cameron-vanderscoff/the-empty-year/hardcover/product-2d5q98.html?page=1&pageSize=4

Cover page of Grand Opera: The Life, Languages, and Teaching of Miriam Ellis

Grand Opera: The Life, Languages, and Teaching of Miriam Ellis

(2020)

Miriam Ellis was born in New York City in 1927, the child of Jewish immigrants who left what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. While the family struggled financially in the Depression, Miriam’s route to the world of language and interchange was laid out from an early age. As she puts it, “Our house was always open to immigrants, and so they came with all kinds of languages: German, Russian, Polish, or Hungarian, and I don’t know what all else.”

Miriam fell especially in love with French language and theater through a program that was offered during WWII by the Free French government in exile; it was designed to preserve and promote French language and culture while France was occupied. When she was twenty-one, Miriam went to France for the first time to volunteer in a postwar displaced persons camp, serving refugees who had been driven from North Africa and parts of the Middle East by fascist occupation and war. After the war, she came back home with her first husband, a veteran of the Royal Air Force. With kids in tow, in 1955 they drove across the country and set up a new life in Southern California.

In the forties, Miriam had completed high school prior to going overseas, but hadn’t been inspired by a brief stint in college at the time. As a mother of three, she picked back up and started taking night classes in 1957. She then spent the next twenty-two years gradually and steadfastly working through a series of degrees. She also kept up her passion for theater in these years and acted in regional productions. Miriam secured a bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude) and master’s degree from CSU Northridge (then San Fernando Valley State) by the mid 1960s, when she was in her late 30s. Miriam had a special passion for connecting and working with international students, and soon added another responsibility to her list: she joined the staff at the university as director of the Office of International Programs.

In 1971, she came north to UC Santa Cruz as a PhD student studying primarily French and Spanish literature. In time, she and her husband divorced; Miriam found herself on a young, still-forming campus—it was just six years old at the time—where two of her children also went through as undergrads. They were all part of the incredible spark of the original UCSC experiment.

            Miriam has stayed ever since, and has left an outsize mark on the campus. She completed her PhD and her twenty-two-year journey as a so-called “re-entry” studentin 1979, at age fifty-one. Miriam was also a key figure in building up theater at UCSC, especially outside of the English language. She also became a protagonist in the story of opera at UCSC, working as stage director for the Opera Workshop in the 70s. From her labors for French theater to co-founding the Santa Cruz Opera Society, Inc. (SCOSI), Miriam has brought town and gown together and has been an all-around champion of the arts—launching productions, hosting talks, bringing in world-class performers, and initiating community outreach programs—including performances of theatrical and operatic selections for local schools and nursing homes.

            Her primary official role at UCSC has been as a longtime lecturer. She started teaching while still a grad student, and then carried on as a lecturer after her PhD in ‘79 and clear through the early 2000s. Since then, she has continued to teach classes for UCSC and for the campus’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, most recently in 2018, when she was ninety. Along the way, Miriam has taught courses on opera, literatures across multiple languages, and many other subjects; her most consistent offering has been her French classes. She has been beloved as a teacher by generations of students, and has been an important figure in advocating for language program over the years, including helping secure six-figure National Endowment for the Humanities grants; she has also put in volumes of sweat equity in a variety of teaching, service, and leadership roles. In recent years, mostly since her nominal retirement, Miriam has remained dedicated to working for a multilingual UCSC, a place where language study is valued, and where perspectives across lingual and international borders are welcomed and celebrated. In 2001, Miriam founded what was then called the International Playhouse, a capstone for her decades of language theater work on campus. In the Playhouse, held annually, language students act out scenes and short plays in the language they are studying before a town-gown audience. It’s an expression of Miriam’s philosophy of the pedagogical power of theater. The International Playhouse was renamed the Miriam Ellis International Playhouse in recognition of her contributions.

Cover page of Elizabeth Spedding Calciano: Founding Director of the Regional History Project, UCSC Library

Elizabeth Spedding Calciano: Founding Director of the Regional History Project, UCSC Library

(2020)

This set of interviews with Elizabeth Spedding Calciano make up the rare project that is not just a life history, but an oral history of and about oral history itself. While Calciano has thrived in multiple professions and jobs, including a forty-plus year career as a lawyer, this volume focuses on her years as the founding head of the Regional History Project at UC Santa Cruz from 1963 to 1974. this volume is both a life narrative and a meta oral history, telling the story and perspective of someone who arrived to UC Santa Cruz and the oral history field at emergent historical moments.

Cover page of Seeds of Something Different: An Oral History of the University of California, Santa Cruz--Volume 1

Seeds of Something Different: An Oral History of the University of California, Santa Cruz--Volume 1

(2020)

In the 1960s, a small team of innovators gathered on a stunning sweep of land overlooking the California coast. They envisioned a new and different kind of university—one that could reinvent public higher education in the United States. Through this two-volume oral history of the University of California, Santa Cruz, we hear first-person accounts of the campus’s evolution, from the origins of an audacious dream through the sea changes of five decades. More than two hundred narrators and a trove of archival images contribute to this dynamic, nuanced account. Today, UC Santa Cruz is a leading research university with experimental roots. This is the story of what was learned, what was lost, and what has grown along the way.

Cover page of Seeds of Something Different: An Oral History of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Volume II

Seeds of Something Different: An Oral History of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Volume II

(2020)

In the 1960s, a small team of innovators gathered on a stunning sweep of land overlooking the California coast. They envisioned a new and different kind of university—one that could reinvent public higher education in the United States. Through this two-volume oral history of the University of California, Santa Cruz, we hear first-person accounts of the campus’s evolution, from the origins of an audacious dream through the sea changes of five decades. More than two hundred narrators and a trove of archival images contribute to this dynamic, nuanced account. Today, UC Santa Cruz is a leading research university with experimental roots. This is the story of what was learned, what was lost, and what has grown along the way.

Cover page of For a More Humane World: A Family Oral History of Professor Jasper Rose

For a More Humane World: A Family Oral History of Professor Jasper Rose

(2020)

For many people, Jasper Rose embodied the spirit and dream of the young University of California, Santa Cruz campus. UCSC first opened its doors in 1965, and Jasper Rose was one of its founding faculty members and a senior preceptor at Cowell College. For Jasper, it meant the inauguration of a powerful shared venture, a space and a time where, as he put it, “it was as though we were a complete society.” He was passionate about that society and his place in it as an educator; animated by a reformer’s vision for change in education, he saw Santa Cruz as a place where something new and remarkable could be realized. In these pages, Jasper Rose recounts his own life journey to that place and to that vision, and shares his convictions and critiques about what has happened in the decades since at UCSC. While this oral history is Jasper’s story, it is also fundamentally a shared effort by the Rose family. Three different family members—his wife Jean Rose and sons Inigo and William Rose—joined our sessions in at various times to support him in telling his life history.

Jasper Rose was born in London in 1930 to family of scholars and thinkers. His family was also “adequately Jewish,” as he put it, and the rising tide of anti-Semitism during World War II left an acute impression on Jasper as a child. His parents took in a string of Jewish refugees fleeing fascism, including leading intellectuals like Stefan Zweig, and his father worked as a prominent German language expert in the British war effort. In our interview more than seventy years after the end of the war, Jasper felt that a part of his vision for UCSC had come from his hope for “a humane postwar world”; in Santa Cruz, it mattered deeply to him that young people would have the opportunity to learn in a beautiful, peaceful, and creative environment.

After the war Jasper ultimately attended King’s College, Cambridge, where he met his soon-to-be wife Jean, also a gifted artist, and studied history. He studied under some of the great minds there, such as Christopher Morris and Noel Annan, and moved in a social set that included luminaries like E.M. Forster. He went on to become a fellow at Cambridge, and wrote a celebrated study of Oxford and Cambridge, Camford Observed: An Investigation of the Ancient English Universities in the Modern World. It was at once a caring and irreverent text. Jasper was already then a passionate advocate for undergraduate education and institutional reform—the very word “Camford” was a playful inversion of the more conventional “Oxbridge”—who believed in the residential college as a dynamic learning environment.

            This oral history goes on to document how Jasper took these convictions with him to the United States, where the growing family moved after he secured a job at Rice University in Texas. Soon thereafter he was brought on as founding faculty at UCSC, where campus originators like Page Smith were impressed by Camford Observed and his approach to education. Jasper recounts how he threw himself wholeheartedly into the UCSC experiment. The new campus, which had a collegiate system, narrative evaluations instead of letter grades, an enthusiasm for reinventing curriculum, and which prized undergraduate education, was an ideal setting for Jasper. He left an indelible and outsize mark as a teacher, administrator, and artist. He believed in students and their ideas, and he encouraged them; he also believed in the power of education to transform outlooks and lives. Simply put, UCSC was a special place—a kind of California pastoral—where a “new vision” was possible.

This oral history goes on to document what happened when UCSC then began to change. Jasper, always known for the intensity of his convictions, became an increasingly fierce critic as the more radical 60s receded into the 70s and then 80s. In these pages, he assails what he saw as an increasing “narrowness of curiosity about what education meant” as UCSC moved away from its original collegiate model towards a more mainstream research university model. Eventually Jasper, feeling like he was fighting a rearguard action, moved from Cowell to Porter College to focus on the arts from there. He retired from UCSC in 1986, when he was still in his mid-50s. This oral history concludes with a reflection on change and continuity at UCSC, and on Jasper’s life as of the time of these interviews in 2019.

Cover page of Framing the Moment: An Oral History with Santa Cruz Photojournalist Shmuel Thaler

Framing the Moment: An Oral History with Santa Cruz Photojournalist Shmuel Thaler

(2018)

For over thirty years, Santa Cruz County residents have opened up their copy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel each morning and seen their lives reflected in Shmuel Thaler’s photographs. From triathlons to earthquakes, from clam chowder cook-offs to murder trials, from burning brush to breaching humpback whales—Thaler’s images record the dynamic nature of this unique Central California coastal community that we call home. His photographs fuse a recognizable artistic, graphical aesthetic with a driving documentary impulse. This oral history photobook based on interviews conducted by the Regional History Project at the University of California, Santa Cruz Library captures the trajectory and philosophy of Shmuel Thaler’s photographic career. See the supplemental material link here for the unedited transcript of this oral history.

  • 1 supplemental PDF
Cover page of Picture to Picture: An Oral History with Photographer-Teacher Norman Locks

Picture to Picture: An Oral History with Photographer-Teacher Norman Locks

(2018)

161 pages, 2018

Photographer Norman Locks was born in San Jose, California in 1947, but grew up primarily in San Francisco. His father, Seymour Locks, was a well-known abstract painter and assemblage sculptor who taught at San Francisco State University for thirty-seven years. The San Francisco art scene [Beatnik, Abstract Expressionism, and Bay Area Figurative] shaped Norman’s early life. These synchronicities of history placed Norman Locks in the Bay Area just as the West Coast Photography scene was blossoming. As a teenager, he took summer session courses at San Francisco State from Jack Welpott, who was drawn to California by the work of Edward Weston. When he was eighteen years old, he met Monterey photographer Wynn Bullock at a lecture at the San Francisco Art Institute. Bullock invited Norman to visit his home in Monterey and show him his photographs. During those years, Locks’ parents also took him camping in the Sierra Nevada and to other favorite locations in the coastal ranges of California, awakening in Norman a deep and lifelong love for the landscapes of his home state. 

Norman studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he earned a BFA in photography, and then attended graduate school at San Francisco State, where he earned his MA. His career as a photography teacher began early, as he taught art classes for the De Young Museum as a teenager, and then summer session courses and then graduate courses at San Francisco State together with Jack Welpott. After graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute, Locks was hired to direct the Ansel Adams Workshops in Yosemite Valley and Carmel, California. There he coordinated eleven to fifteen workshops a year, bringing in luminary photographers such as Imogen Cunningham, Robert Heinecken, Judy Dater, Minor White, and Linda Connor, as well as then-emerging photographers such as Jerry Uelsmann and Lewis Baltz.

In 1978, Locks came to UC Santa Cruz at a time when there were only four FTE’s in photography in the entire University of California system. He was hired by College Five Provost Pavel Machotka to teach six photography courses a year for aesthetic studies, an innovative interdisciplinary major affiliated with College Five [now Porter College] that wove together the study of the psychology of creativity, art history, art criticism, philosophy and the hands-on mastery of the art of creative writing, film, photography, sculpture, and other modalities.  Locks also managed the darkroom for aesthetic studies.

In 1980, aesthetic studies was disbanded as part of Chancellor Robert Sinsheimer’s reorganization of the college system, which eliminated most of UC Santa Cruz’s college-based majors. At that point, Locks was hired as a lecturer in the art department. He struggled with the marginal position of a lecturer until 1990, when he was promoted to a tenure-track position in the art department. Locks chaired UC Santa Cruz’s art department twice. The final section of this oral history focuses on key developments in the art department’s history over the past several decades, covering hirings, the expansion of physical facilities, and the founding of new academic pathways within the curriculum, such as the digital arts and media program.