Robert Gordon Sproul
Robert Gordon Sproul (May 22, 1891 – September 10, 1975) was the first system-wide President (1952-1958) of the University of California system, and the last President (11th) of the University of California, Berkeley, serving from 1930 to 1952.
Robert Gordon Sproul was born on May 22, 1891, in San Francisco, California to Robert Sproul of Scotland and Sarah Elizabeth Sproul of New England. He is the elder brother of central banker Allan Sproul, who served as chairman of the New York Federal Reserve. In 1913, he earned a BS in Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, where his classmates included future Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren.
In 1914, he began a 44-year track by joining the University of California's business office as a cashier and rose to controller, legislative lobbyist, and by 1925 secretary of the Regents and vice president of finance and business affairs.
In June 1929, Sproul was choseen as eleventh president of the University of California. He immediately took a leave of absence to study other universities. In a 1930 speech, as president-elect he stated:
The glory of a university is obviously the men who constitute its faculty. It cannot be too often repeated that it is men, and nothing but men, who make education. The reason why the University of California occupies the high position it does throughout the academic world is that there has never been a time when its faculty could not boast of men who were finding their way along rough trails, illuminated only by the spark of genius, to the heights of scholarship. Within a few years after the receipt of its charter from the state there were to be found in the University a goodly number of men whose reputation is even yet undimmed, such men as Daniel Coit Gilman, later president of Johns Hopkins University, Hilgard in agriculture, LeConte in geology, and many others. Nor is the present faculty devoid of men who, in their respective fields, hold high the lamp of learning--Campbell in astronomy, Kofoid in zoology, and G. N. Lewis in chemistry, to pick out a few of the most obvious. In a very real sense, such men are the University of California, and similarly elsewhere, for material development is futile without brains to use and to direct it and personality to irradiate it. Students are getting a gold brick if they go for education to a school where there are no great teachers.
In 1936, Sproul added to his roles the job of provost of the University of California at Los Angeles through 1937. He organized the California Club that brought all campuses together. In 1944, he started an annual series of all-University faculty conferences.
In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, he struggled with student dissent (e.g., over conscriptions) and McCarthy-style accusations from the newspapers controlled by William Randolph Hearst about "communist influence" on campuses. Perhaps the biggest controversy during his presidency came in 1949 over a special non-Communist oath required of faculty by the Regents of the University of California, known as the "Year of the Oath." Forty professors who refused to sign were let go; a court restored their jobs in 1956.
Sproul's outstanding contribution during his 28-year administration was the multiple-campus expansion of the University to meet the demands for higher education in widely separated parts of the state, while maintaining one institution governed by one Board of Regents and one President. He also stopped establishment of separate local colleges in 1931, 1945, and 1953.
California governor Earl Warren asked his former classmate and fellow 1911 member of the University of California Band, Sproul to place his name in nomination for the office of vice president of the United States at the 1948 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Sproul retired in 1958. He became active in the Save the Redwoods League (after being a member since 1921) and in the East Bay Regional Park District and served on the National Park Advisory Board. From his office as president emeritus, he gave a speech during the 1967 Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, by which he "contributed one of the few notes of humor in an otherwise grim confrontation." When student demonstrators broke into his office and scattered his papers, he told a reporter, "Nonsense. Nobody messed up my office. It always looks that way."
Personal and death
- 1926: LLD from Occidental College
- 1930: LLD from University of Southern California
- 1930: LLD from University of San Francisco
- 1931: LLD from Pomona College
- 1932: LLD from University of Oregon
- 1935: LLD from University of Nebraska
- 1935: LLD from Yale University
- 1938: LLD from University of Maine
- 1938: LittD from Columbia University
- 1940: LLD from University of New Mexico
- 1940: LLD from Harvard University
- 1943: LLD from Mills College
- 1947: LLD from Princeton University
- 1949: LLD from Tulane University
- 1949: LLD from St. Mary's College
- 1958: LLD from University of California at Berkeley
- 1958: LHD from the University of California at Los Angeles
- 1958: LLD from University of British Columbia
- 1958: LLD from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- 1959: LLD from Brigham Young University
- Officier de l'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur (France)
- Knight of the Order of the Iron Crown (Italy)
- Royal Order of the North Star - Commander Second Class (Sweden)
He was given the Benjamin Ide Wheeler distinguished citizen award by the city of Berkeley, 1933; made an honorary fellow of Stanford University, 1941; and named "Alumnus of the Year" by the California Alumni Association in 1946.
(All honors and awards listed come from the University of California History - Digital Archives.)
At his death, the New York Times reported that the University of California owed its pre-eminence in science to Sproul, who transformed the school system from "a merely large institution" to "the biggest in the Western world... sprinkled with Nobel Prize winners." By the time he left office in 1958, the University of California, Berkeley, was a distinguished university recognized worldwide for the excellence of its programs and the University of California had a total of eight campuses from Davis to Los Angeles. Its student population had risen from 19,000 to 45,000 students. Its library had quadrupled to four million volumes. Its state supported had risen nine times to $75 million.
Sproul Hall on the University of California, Riverside campus, home to the Department of Economics and the Graduate School of Education, is named for him.
At nine stories, UC Davis's Sproul Hall is the tallest building in Yolo County.
- Whitman, Alden (12 September 1975). "Robert G. Sproul, 84, Dies; Headed U. of California". New York Times. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- "Robert Gordon Sproul: Systemwide". University of California - Calisphere. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- "Robert Gordon Sproul, 1930-58". University of California History: Digital Archives. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- Atkinson, Richard C. (November 1999). "Robert G. Sproul" (PDF). California Journal. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- "Past Chancellors | Office of the Chancellor". chancellor.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
- Ritter, Lawrence S. Selected Papers of Allan Sproul.
- "Robert Goren Sproul, UC President". University of California at Los Angeles. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- Brechin, Gray A. (1999). Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 312. ISBN 0-520-21568-0.
- Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal- Retrieved 2018-07-31
- "R/V Robert Gordon Sproul". Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- University of California: Robert Gordon Sproul and the University of California: A Memoir by Agnes Roddy Robb (1976)
- USCF Department of Psychiatry: Remarks by the Honorable Robert Gordon Sproul, President of the University of California, at the Laying of the Cornerstone of the Langley Porter Clinic of the California State Department of Institutions - April 5, 1941
- Works by or about Robert Gordon Sproul at Internet Archive
William Wallace Campbell
| President of the University of California