History of UCLA

In 1880 — with just 11,000 inhabitants — the pueblo of Los Angeles convinced the state government to establish a normal school (teachers college) in Southern California. Enthusiastic citizens contributed between $2 and $500 to purchase a site; and on August 29, 1882, the Los Angeles Branch 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 two years later the Southern Branch had earned its new name: University of California at Los Angeles. In 1958, at was replaced by a comma and the official name became University of California, Los Angeles.

Continued growth mandated 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 named Humanities Building) — formed a lonesome cluster in the middle of 400 empty acres. The campus hosted 5,500 students its first term in 1929. The UCLA master’s degree was established in 1933 and the doctorate in 1936. UCLA was fast becoming a full-fledged university that offered advanced study in almost every field.

Following World War II, UCLA began a period of spectacular growth: in 25 years its enrollment tripled to 27,000 students. The campus 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 teaching hospital that is now one of the largest and most highly respected in the world. In the late 1950s and 1960s, UCLA was at the center of many milestones: the first open-heart surgery in the western U.S. was performed at its medical center; the first of 10 NCAA men’s basketball championships was won; and it became the first ARPANET node, heralding the birth of the Internet.

The rest of the twentieth century, through the opening of the twenty-first, was peppered with notable UCLA events: Nobel prizes awarded to multiple faculty; breakthroughs in treatments for cancer, brain aneurysms, and organ transplants; explosive growth in research grants; more than 30 Oscars awarded to creative alumni; completion of a new medical center; expansion of campus housing to accommodate nearly all incoming freshmen; and becoming the first university to win 100 NCAA team championships.

Today, UCLA is home to over 45,400 students and 4,300 faculty members. With 213 campus buildings, classes are held in more than 70 facilities. As UCLA approaches its 100th anniversary, it remains firmly rooted in Westwood but its reach is beyond borders, with programs and collaborations that span the country, the globe, and even outer space.