Press Room

Senate resolution, Charter Day celebration mark UC’s 150th anniversary

The University of California officially turns 150 years old today (March 23) and the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution commemorating the occasion and the accomplishments of the state’s public research university.

Senate Resolution 438, co-sponsored by California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, heralds the university’s growth from its inaugural class of 40 students and 10 faculty members into a renowned 10-campus public research university with 273,000 enrolled students and more than two million living alumni.

“Throughout its history, the University of California has become a foundation, and a beacon of hope, for the State of California and the nation as a whole,” said Feinstein as she introduced the resolution. “I know and believe that the University of California will continue to push boundaries, explore the great unknown, stand up for American values, and continue to solve the world’s most complex problems.”

“Access to a quality and affordable higher education is fundamental to the success of a society and our economy,” said Harris. “For 150 years, the University of California system has provided ladders of opportunity through education that have empowered generations of scientists, engineers, lawyers, doctors, public servants, and champions of change who have made unparalleled advancements that help our nation reach new heights.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, Gov. Jerry Brown and members of the California State Senate and Assembly have also issued resolutions and statements commemorating the anniversary.

UC President Janet Napolitano and UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ marked the milestone today by joining thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumni at a Charter Day celebration at UC Berkeley. The festivities, which included remarks by distinguished members of the UC community, a procession of alumni carrying class banners and performances by student groups, marked 150 years since Gov. Henry Haight signed the charter establishing the university on March 23, 1868.

At UC Berkeley’s Haas Pavilion, Napolitano praised UC’s legacy as an engine of excellence and opportunity for students of all backgrounds.

“As we mark UC’s sesquicentennial, we are not resting on our laurels — we are working hard to expand opportunity and access to this great university and to serve ever more Californians,” said Napolitano. “We will continue to push forward with the belief in the power of education to change lives and change the world for the better.”

In recent keynote addresses in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Napolitano marked the milestone by proposing new policies that would expand educational opportunities for future generations of Californians. She called on the university to guarantee admission to qualified community college transfer students, and to boost the percentage of students who graduate in four years from the current 64 percent to 70 percent, which would produce an additional 32,000 undergraduate degrees by 2030.

While looking toward the future of the university, UC is also reflecting on its 150-year legacy of research and innovation with a new interactive historical timeline featuring key milestones, photos and stories from UC’s history.

In addition, through a new podcast series, One Bold Idea, the university is exploring pivotal moments in California history that have shaped the world. Narrated by Shuka Kalantari, a Bay Area journalist and UC Santa Cruz alumna, and produced in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Advanced Media Institute, the podcast examines a range of topics including the history of UCLA’s storied film and television archive and the formation of the nation’s first dedicated HIV/AIDS clinic, Ward 86, by physicians at UC San Francisco. New episodes will post in the coming weeks.

On social media, UC is sharing stories and photos from the university’s history using the hashtag #UC150. And starting today, UC is inviting community members to post photos of their favorite personal UC moments on Instagram with the hashtags #myUCmoment and #UofCalifornia.

Recent social posts have celebrated some of the 61 UC faculty members who have won Nobel Prizes, as well as prominent policy makers, athletes, scientists and artists among UC’s faculty and alumni.

“This pivotal milestone is much more than an occasion to celebrate the founding of our great university,” said UC Board of Regents Chair George Kieffer. “It is a testament to the enduring and far-reaching value of the University of California to our state, nation and world. UC’s mission of education, research and public service is more vital than ever to meeting society’s challenges today and over the course of the next 150 years.”