UCR Magazine The Magazine of UC Riverside

Fall 2014

Past Issues

UCR: The First Years

Vickie Chang

Sixty years after the University of California, Riverside first opened its doors to students, the first few graduates of the campus talk about the challenges of going to a brand-new university, and what made the Highlanders so special.

The University of California, Riverside broke ground in 1952, but it wasn’t until February of 1954 that the students first came to attend classes in a campus that was built on a former walnut grove adjacent to the Citrus Experiment station.

Before UCR opened, then-Registrar Clinton Gilliam and the Dean of Men Thomas Broadbent formed a team that visited high schools throughout Southern California to show slides of the proposed UC campus. “The slides shown by the traveling two were certainly inviting; there was a large pool, a new library, and modern science laboratories,” says Hal Durian ’57.

Here, Durian and other members of the pioneer class talk about what it was like to be the first graduates of UCR, and why it has meant so much to them throughout the years.

The Charter Class

“There were 125 of us, and our class was at least 70 percent male. There was a good reason for that ratio. In the beginning UCR did not have any dormitories. Mothers were reluctant to send their daughters to a college where they would have to live in rented apartments.

“A large number of the first males to arrive at UCR were veterans of World War II and Korea. Some were married and lived in the Canyon Crest housing units, units that are still located north of the campus. Those cottages were built for World War II defense workers, and it is a tribute to UCR maintenance that they are still standing and looking good some 70 years after construction.”
— Hal Durian ’57

“I was at UCR before there were even sidewalks.”
— E. Dollie Totaro Wolverton ’57

The Campus

“The first semester there was no landscaping, and paths were made by placing sides of packing crates between the buildings. The crates kept students from wallowing in the mud.

“Also, parking then was a dream! One could drive up to any one of the campus buildings, park, and walk inside.”
— Hal Durian ’57

“Full four years didn’t cost my parents more than $1,000, I’d say!”
— Robbie Duncanson ’60

Room in A-I with old photo over it.

A room in Aberdeen-Inverness (A-I) Residence Hall (then).

Room in A-I

A room in Aberdeen-Inverness (A-I) Residence Hall (now).

Bun in A-I with old photo over it.

The top bunk at Aberdeen-Inverness (A-I) Residence Hall (then).

Top bunk at A-I.

The top bunk at Aberdeen-Inverness (A-I) Residence Hall (now).

Bell tower with old photo in front of it.

The bell tower (then).

Bell tower.

The bell tower (now).

Base of the bell tower with old photo in front of it.

Base of the bell tower (then).

Campus store with old photo in front of it.

The UCR Campus Store (then).

Campus store.

The UCR Campus Store (now).

Anderson Hall with old photo in front of it.

The Citrus Experiment Station, now the School of Business Administration (then).


The UCR courtyard (then).

Watkins Hall with old photo in front of it.

Watkins Hall (then).

Watkins Hall.

Watkins Hall (now).

Keen Hall with old photo in front of it.

Keen Hall (then).

Keen Hall.

Keen Hall (now).

Olmsted courtyard with old photo in front of it.

Olmsted courtyard (then).

Olmsted courtyard.

Olmsted courtyard (now).

Spieth Hall with old photo in front of it.

Spieth Hall (then).

Spieth Hall.

Spieth Hall (now).

Sproul Hall with old photo in front of it.

Sproul Hall (then).

Sproul Hall.

Sproul Hall (now).

The Barn interior with old photo in front of it.

The Barn dining (then).

The Barn interior with old photo in front of it.

The Barn during concert (then).

The Barn exterior with old photo in front of it.

The Barn patio (then).

The Tomás Rivera Library with old photo in front of it.

The Tomás Rivera Library (then).

The Tomás Rivera Library.

The Tomás Rivera Library (now).

University Theatre Patio with old photo in front of it.

University Theatre Patio (then).

University Theatre Patio.

University Theatre Patio (now).

The Dress Code

“It was not a very relaxed dress code back [in 1955]. In fact, there was a code against wearing Bermuda [shorts] to school. And, well, some young coeds came to me one day and said they wanted to know if I would help them put together a day that students could all in protest wear Bermudas.”

“And so I told them, ‘Oh, didn’t you hear? Next Wednesday is Bermuda Day!”

(Word subsequently spread throughout the campus like wildfire.)

“And now I had to go out and buy some Bermudas! So I went and bought the loudest Bermudas I could, red and white diamond long socks, white buck shoes, and a red shirt with lightning bolts on it. It was a big crowd that wore them and they dropped the restriction a couple weeks after!”
— Ed Cowan ’58

The Academics

“There were almost as many professors as students in those early days of UCR. Classes were small, often tiny. I took one Spanish course with two students. Tom Frohlich and I were the entire class, and we met in Professor Terence Hansen’s office.”
— Hal Durian ’57

“It was a unique opportunity to be a pioneer at UCR — everyone knew each other. The classes were small and academic standards were high. Students and professors shared sport and social events, and frequently ate lunch together at the Barn, our campus hangout. The faculty to student ratio was 2:1. Provost Gordon Watkins once remarked, ‘Never have so few been taught by so many.’”
— E. Dollie Totaro Wolverton ’57

“The Physical Education Department had the traditional activity selection, but the veterans were excused from it. The feeling was that, through marching, the vets had endured enough physical activity. In addition, there was a lecture course required called Sports Appreciation, which caused us to resent sports. We learned the rules of lacrosse and listened to one of the coaches recite the poem ‘Casey at the Bat.’ Several friends and I organized a letter-writing campaign to end the requirement. The Faculty Senate agreed with the student views, and the course was turned into an elective.”
— Hal Durian ’57

Social Life at UCR

“There were a lot of good times. And there were some students that were really diligent in the library—you could always find them in the library. And there were some students that if you wanted to find them, you could find them at the gym or playing ping pong.”
— Ed Cowan ’58

“For single males, the few UCR women offered slim social pickings. Expeditions were organized to the University of Redlands where there was an amazing (to us) abundance of women. One lonely veteran even advertised in the UCR Cub that he longed to meet an attractive secretary working in one of the many offices at UCR. Some thought he was joking!”
— Hal Durian ’57

“There was a lot of energy on campus. I remember though, someone coming up to me in 1956 and they had a petition they wanted me to sign—they were opposed to the apathy on campus. First, I asked, ‘What does apathy mean?’” Then I was like, ‘You must be kidding!’

“They never got that one off the ground.”
— Ed Cowan ’58

“The barn was the only place we could get a hamburger or a cup of coffee with a girlfriend. The barn was the center of the social interaction.”
– Bob Duncanson ’60

“We were married at a Catholic church in Riverside in June of 1960, then we went to Watkins house—and it was strictly cake and punch, there was no alcohol allowed. Bob’s mother made the decorations and I did the flowers. It was really a good memory! Watkins house was a big part of our social life because it’s close to where the housing is.”
— Robbie Duncanson ’60

For First-generation Students, Even Then

“Most of the students were from nearby cities — San Bernardino, Hemet, Corona. Some lived in nearby rooms or apartments and many lived with our parents at home. I was in the latter group, and my parents were most eager that I attend and graduate from college. When I graduated, I would be the first person from either side of my family to do so. In the 1950s even much more than today, the college diploma was considered to be the ticket to distinction and success. Most of my friends were in a similar situation: Short on cash but long on parental support.

I worked at part-time jobs on campus and off. At one time, I had four such jobs at once. My first car was a Model A Ford coupe. I could not afford a new battery, so we started the car in the morning with cables from my Dad’s car. I drove it to UCR and parked on a hillside where the science library is today. At the end of the school day I would roll down the hill and start the car by compression. This went on for months.”
— Hal Durian ’57

“I think there continues to be a larger representation from first-generation students and that says something very special about a campus. Because they’re talking about excellence, they’re talking about giving people opportunities, from a variety of backgrounds, and then also it is maintaining its rate of graduation.

“I benefitted greatly as a UCR pioneer. In addition to getting a formal education, being part of such a small student body helped me to develop self-confidence and a sense of responsibility to others. I grew to understand that how I conducted myself and what I achieved was not only a reflection on me, but also a reflection on my family, friends and those who helped prepare me for life beyond an institution of higher learning.”
— E. Dollie Totaro Wolverton ’57

About the Alumni

Dollie WolvertonE. Dollie Totaro Wolverton was one of 62 Highlanders in UCR’s graduating class of 1957, earning a degree in history, followed by a master’s degree in school administration and curriculum development at Long Beach State. She has been a teacher and elementary school administrator, the Head Start director of Riverside County, and an early childhood specialist in the California Department of Education with Wilson Riles. The last 36 years of her career were in federal service in Washington, D.C., retiring in 2006 as chief of education, Head Start Bureau. She is the recipient of the 1992 Alumni Public Service Award, a member of the Watkins Society, a life member of the UCR Alumni Association and serves on the board of directors. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Ed CowanEd “Eddie” Cowan is a current member of the (unofficially named) UCR Alumni Association Pioneer Reunion Committee. At UCR, he was a part of the golf team and the freshmen basketball team, a member of The Order of the Thistle (the awesomely named academic honors society) and even served as President of the Big C Society, an athletic letterman’s club. Cowan even met his wife Jeanie during a food drive thrown by one of the earliest clubs that formed on campus, The Gaels, a service club. He is a retired dentist.

Hal DurianHal Durian attended public schools in Riverside and graduated from Poly High School in 1953. After UCR, he received his M.A. in history from the University of Arizona. He taught history and government at Chaffey High School for 41 years, and wrote a weekly column on local history for the Press-Enterprise from 2005 to 2012.

Bob Duncanson Robbie DuncansonBob and Robbie (Hall) Duncanson can credit UCR for their long-lasting marriage. Both graduated in 1960—like all the other pre-med students, Bob was a zoology major that eventually went onto UCLA for medical school, followed by serving as a working pediatrician for the Air Force in Upstate New York. Robbie, or Roberta, was a social sciences major who received her teaching credential from UC Riverside. She taught in Inglewood, Calif. as Bob worked his way to becoming an M.D. Three sons later, Robbie has been a full-time housewife since 1976. Both are retired now and are focused on perfecting their golf swings.