Pioneering perspectives

Alumnus Bob Dodge reflects on being part of the inaugural graduating class and philanthropically supports current students

Bob Dodge (Stevenson ’69, politics)

Bob Dodge (Stevenson ’69, politics) was in the first-ever class to graduate from UC Santa Cruz. He says his years at UCSC were some of the most transformative in his life. Now, as an alumnus settled in the Pacific Northwest, Dodge continues to support his Banana Slug community through gifts to McHenry Library and Stevenson College. 

His gifts, which support students in multiple areas, stem from his commitment to public service as a U.S. Air Force Veteran and an avid volunteer in his community. 

In 2016, Dodge and his wife established the Robert Dodge Student Service Award, supporting Stevenson College students who partner with community organizations and actively participate in service projects. 

“I got so much from Stevenson, and I felt that I needed to give back and make sure that others had the opportunities I had,” Dodge said. “Because when I went to school, it was pretty easy to get through since the cost wasn’t nearly as much as it is now.” 

Dodge added that his desire to support students through the Robert Dodge Student Service Award stems from his own career and volunteering roles in public service. 

Before attending UCSC, he spent two years volunteering at the Burlingame Public Library and worked in the Santa Cruz City Library when he moved to the area. While a student, he worked in McHenry Library, attaching Library of Congress tags to the spine of books before construction on the library was completed in 1965. 

Even after graduating from UCSC in 1969, Dodge continued to pursue opportunities to serve in his community.

Dodge dedicated 27 years to the Oregon Department of Family Services, showcasing a lasting dedication to social services. He retired from the State of Oregon after nearly three decades of service. Bob continued his involvement in library initiatives, serving as the treasurer of the Foundation of the McMinnville Public Library, was on the board of the Linfield Chamber Orchestra, and served on the city budget committee for several years. 

In addition to the Robert Dodge Student Service Award, Dodge and his wife have made several gifts to McHenry Library in the hopes that the funds will assist in resource expansion. 

Attending UCSC in its earliest days 

Dodge transferred to UCSC in 1965 from San Mateo Community College. Before college, he spent 3.5 years in the U.S. Air Force. He emphasized that attending UCSC in its beginning years was incredible. 

“Attending UCSC was a great experience,” he said. “I hated to leave. I just remember really enjoying it. UCSC was a major thing in my life, and especially in the first year, it was really interesting.”

Dodge recalls living in trailers in his first year while construction resumed at the nearby colleges. Because of his experience with the Air Force, he felt at home in the temporary residential units and helped his new roommates adjust. In addition to the trailers, Dodge and his classmates found themselves adjusting to a couple of things unique to UCSC, including the quarter system and not receiving grades on their assignments. 

“Getting used to classes being pass/fail was difficult,” Dodge recalled. “My friends and I really had some issues in dealing with that in the beginning because we would get papers back, and we were trying to interpret them as to what kind of grade that might be. It took a while to get past that.” 

Despite the initial uncertainty, Bob cherishes the small class sizes and the camaraderie with fellow students. One amusing memory involves a political theory professor, Ray Nichols. The class began with a complex discussion on political theory and higher mathematical principles, which bewildered Bob and his fellow majors. However, to their surprise, the second class revealed a significant reduction in participants, and the intricate topics were never revisited. 

“I went to office hours to talk about one of my essays, and I said, ‘you know, I didn’t understand what was going on in the first class.’ He just laughed and said, ‘you weren’t supposed to, that was just to drive all those other people out.’”  

Additionally, he highlights the influence of Professor Bruce Larkins, who taught Chinese political theory and philosophy, leaving a lasting impression. 

Dodge’s enduring commitment to public service and support for his Banana Slug community through gifts to McHenry Library and Stevenson College is a testament to the transformative impact of his UCSC years, emphasizing the importance of giving back to ensure others have the opportunities he enjoyed.