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UCLA General Catalog 2016-17

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A Brief History of UCLA

With only 11,000 inhabitants in 1880, the pueblo of Los Angeles convinced the state government to establish a State Normal School in Southern California. Enthusiastic citizens contributed between $2 and $500 to purchase a site, and on August 29, 1882, the Los Angeles Branch of the State Normal School welcomed its first students in a Victorian building that had been erected on the site of an orange grove.

By 1914 Los Angeles had grown to a city of 350,000, and the school moved to new quarters— a Hollywood ranch off a dirt road that later became Vermont Avenue. In 1919, the school became the Southern Branch of the University of California and offered two years of instruction in Letters and Science. Third- and fourth-year courses were soon added; the first class of 300 students was graduated in 1925, and by 1927 the Southern Branch had earned its new name: University of California at Los Angeles. (The name was changed again in 1958 to University of California, Los Angeles.)

Continued growth mandated the selection of a site that could support a larger campus and, in 1927, ground was broken in the chaparral-covered hills of Westwood. The four original buildings—Royce Hall, Powell Library, Haines Hall, and Kinsey Hall (now called the Humanities Building)—formed a lonesome cluster in the middle of 400 empty acres. The campus hosted some 5,500 students its first term in 1929. The Regents established the master’s degree at UCLA in 1933 and, three years later, the doctorate. UCLA was fast becoming a full-fledged university offering advanced study in almost every field.

The most spectacular growth at UCLA occurred in the 25 years following World War II, when it tripled its prewar enrollment of 9,000 students and undertook what would become a $260 million building program that included residence halls, parking structures, laboratories, more classrooms, service buildings, athletic and recreational facilities, and a 581-bed teaching hospital that is now one of the largest and most highly respected in the world.