Who Is Aldrich?

As students walk past Ring Mall, something is different. It’s not the usual construction and hullabaloo; it’s a new name for the Administration Building. On Tuesday evening, faculty, students and distinguished guests gathered to celebrate the renaming of the Administration Building to Aldrich Hall in honor of Dr. Daniel G. Aldrich, Jr.
Who is this Aldrich after whom we have named some of our most major campus features?
Aldrich is the founding chancellor of UC Irvine who served with distinction for 22 years. ‘Chancellor Dan’ (the title bestowed on him by students) was responsible for developing a new UC campus. During the first three years of development, Aldrich oversaw the blueprints of UCI’s campus.
Aldrich’s background in agriculture and connection with the land-grant system at the University of Rhode Island influenced his plan to design a campus in which environmental planning and community service would be crucial. He helped turn 1,500 acres of rolling hills and coastal plains occupied by cattle and cacti into classrooms and laboratories. The beautiful landscape of the campus is a reflection of Aldrich’s expertise and passion for soils and plant nutrition. He can be credited with implementing the wide variety of flora and fauna on campus that fits the local Mediterranean-like climate zone. He felt that it served an ‘aesthetic, environmental, and educational [purpose].’ The park in the center of campus was named in recognition of his key role in the planning and development of UCI.
Several generations have benefited from Aldrich’s leadership, enthusiasm and overall skill with people. The achievements of UCI over the past quarter of a century are a testiment to his eminent vision and effectiveness. He developed the campus’ first academic plan, which included a College of Arts, Letters and Science, a Graduate School of Administration, and a School of Engineering. The College of Arts, Letters and Science was composed of twenty majors in five divisions: biological sciences, fine arts, humanities, physical sciences and social sciences. These later evolved into the present-day schools.
Aldrich encouraged the newly recruited deans and department chairs to develop academic programs that reflected new developments in intellectual inquiry. Thus, the School of Biological Sciences was established, and it pioneered the establishment of departments based on levels of analysis. The School of Social Sciences emphasized mathematical approaches to inquiry in the social and behavioral sciences, and the School of Humanities fostered programs in creative writing, literary criticism and comparative literature. The campus also provided for the development of newly-emerging interdisciplinary programs.
Aside from being a keen and charismatic leader, Aldrich was also very concerned with student welfare. His door was always open to students and responsive to their needs. He felt that the university should serve the students and faculty as well as the surrounding community.
Aldrich was born in Northwood, New Hampshire on July 12, 1918 and attended the University of Rhode Island. He went to the University of Arizona for an M.S. degree and met his wife, Jean. Aldrich received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin in soil chemistry. In 1958, he was appointed University Dean of Agriculture until he was promoted to founding Chancellor of UCI in 1962. He welcomed and guided faculty and 1,589 students to the Irvine campus in the fall of 1965. He also served as acting chancellor of UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara before returning to UCI as chancellor and professor emeritus.
Throughout his life, Aldrich thrived on challenge. He was the student body president and captain of his college track team. During his career at UCI, he dealt with campus and community concerns fairly and firmly during the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s. He was adamant in his commitment to freedom of expression at a time when such freedoms were under intense assault from both ends of the political spectrum. His personal integrity and moral courage inspired all those who worked with him.
Aldrich was the first chancellor to occupy the Administration Building built in 1973. As Chancellor Drake expresses, ‘It is important for buildings and programs to help record the history of the campus and honor those who contributed so much in the formative years [of UCI.]’ Aldrich passed away on April 9, 1990, but students, staff and faculty are reminded of his legacy everyday by our park and, now, our administration building. Aldrich served UCI for 22 years, and this is one small way of thanking him for his great contributions to education.