New annual tradition launched with Founders Day

U.S. Representative Sam Farr accepts the Fiat Lux Award, with Chancellor George Blumenthal in the background.
Robert Sinsheimer, left, with the Foundation Medal. In the center is Blumenthal; on the right is Gordon Ringold, president of the UC Santa Cruz Foundation.
UCSC graduate Gary Heit accepts the Alumni Achievement Award while Blumenthal, right, and Joan Fitting Scott, president of the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Association, look on.
Stanford Woosley is congratulated by Blumenthal as he accepts the Faculty Research Lecturer Award. (Photos: Terry Way)

More than 350 people celebrated the founding principles of UC Santa Cruz and the achievements of four outstanding individuals at a gala dinner October 18 at the Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz.

Billed as "the beginning of a new annual tradition," the Founders Day dinner commemorated the founding of UC Santa Cruz and the "rebels and visionaries" who established its innovative small college-centered approach to undergraduate education within the framework of a large research university.

"Tonight's celebration is to reflect on the canvas that began when the citizens of Santa Cruz invited the state to create a campus here," Chancellor George Blumenthal said. "The founders set out to create a distinctive and innovative campus in a spectacular setting."

Donna Murphy, vice chancellor of university relations, noted that it was 50 years ago--October 1957--that the UC regents voted to establish three new campuses to accommodate the expected surge of university students in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Four years later, the regents selected the historic Cowell Ranch in Santa Cruz for one of those campuses. (The others were in San Diego and Irvine.)

Four years after that--1965--Cowell College opened with some 650 students.

Founders Day attendees included pioneer faculty, staff and students, along with community members and government and business leaders. They viewed video presentations highlighting the achievements of the evening's honorees--Dr. Gary Heit, Professor Stanford Woosley, U.S. Rep. Sam Farr and his family, and Chancellor Emeritus Robert Sinsheimer.

Heit, a 1977 Oakes College graduate, received the Alumni Achievement Award presented by the UCSC Alumni Association for his development of deep brain stimulation, a treatment for neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and chronic pain.

Woosley was honored as the Faculty Research Lecturer, selected by members of the Academic Senate for his pioneering work in understanding the end-stage evolution of massive stars. He promised an "explosive" presentation at the lecture scheduled for February 12, 2008.

The Farr Family of Carmel was given the Fiat Lux Award, presented by the UC Santa Cruz Foundation for its role in shaping and strengthening the UCSC campus.

In accepting the award on behalf of his family, Sam Farr recalled his father Fred Farr's "passion for higher education." For my father, it was not just about power, it was about empowerment," he said. Referring to the motto "Fiat Lux"--let there be light--Farr said, "all along the way I followed his path and the light that led the way."

Fred Farr was an attorney, environmentalist and state senator. He was a tireless champion of UCSC and served as a UC Santa Cruz Foundation Board trustee from 1983 until his death at age 86 in 1997. Sam Farr provided key support the Center for Agroecology and

Sustainable Food Systems and the Monterey Bay Education, Science and Technology Center (MBEST) at Fort Ord.

Robert Sinsheimer, Chancellor Emeritus, received the Foundation Medal in honor of his significant breakthroughs in the field of genetic research by artificially creating functional strands of DNA. Sinsheimer served as UCSC's fourth chancellor from 1977 to 1987. "This is an award not only to me but to the many people at UC Santa Cruz," Sinsheimer said.

Blumenthal congratulated the winners. "Each of these individuals and the entire Farr family has put into action the vision and promise of UC Santa Cruz's founders," he said.