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HISTORICALLY, A FINE PLACE FOR LEARNING

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   From its inception, Royce Hall was meant to be a symbol of excellence in education and the academic heart of a great university.

   Provost Ernest Carroll Moore, UCLA’s first chief executive, selected themes throughout the building that represented scholarship and cultural history. The lobby of Picture

the auditorium is decorated with the seals of several outstanding European universities. The outside vaulted lobby has 12 figures holding symbols of 12 great fields of knowledge. The ceiling painting in the upper loggia depicts 12 scholars from three periods of civilization: the ancient, medieval and modern worlds.

   But Moore, who predicted before the campus was built that the university was “certain to be greater, far greater than the imagination of any of us can foresee,” understood that excellence was rooted in UCLA’s people.

   At the conclusion of the first formal campus assembly held in Royce Hall’s auditorium, on Sept. 23, 1929, Moore told the students: “You are to make these houses into your university; you are to build great memories here. Through you, these buildings are to become a place for the lifting of souls.”

   The home of the Humanities at UCLA, the newly revamped Royce houses eight general-assignment classrooms and two large lecture halls, as well as conference halls and 70 faculty offices.

   The largest of the four original campus buildings, Royce Hall was the young campus’ main classroom and auditorium and also housed several academic and administrative offices.

   In the ‘30s, students sometimes registered for classes in Royce. In those pre-computer days, lines would snake across the quad as students waited  sometimes for hours  as all their paperwork was done by hand.

   The building was informally introduced to students and faculty  with much excitement and fanfare  on “Move Day,” May 31, 1929. A caravan with three truckloads of furniture, the Bruin band and students in cars drove from the Vermont Avenue old campus to the new home in Westwood. During the day, students toured Royce  which still lacked fixtures and seats in the auditorium  and the three other buildings that constituted UCLA at that time.

   Royce’s auditorium  today a premiere venue for the performing arts  was in the beginning used primarily for lectures and ceremonies. One of the earliest celebrated figures to appear there was John Dewey, the father of progressive education, who gave the principal address at the dedication of the new Westwood campus in 1930. Albert Einstein gave a major address to the student body in 1932  in German interpreted by a CalTech professor. Einstein, who is depicted in the ceiling painting in the hall’s loggia, was so popular that hundreds of would-be audience members had to be turned away.

   Over the years, Royce’s stage has been graced by the world’s leading luminaries in academia, literature and politics: T.S. Eliot, Carl Sandburg, Bertrand Russell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Linus Pauling, Ralph Bunche, John F. Kennedy and Vaclav Havel, just to name a few.

   One lecture that proved particularly interesting was given by designer Buckminster Fuller in 1960. Fuller started talking at 8 p.m. and held students’ attention until 1 a.m., when campus authorities ended the talk so that the young people could get some sleep before the next morning’s classes. The last major figure to appear in Royce before the Northridge earthquake shut the building down was Vice President Al Gore, who headed the Superhighway Summit in January 1994, just days before the quake.

   Because Royce always was an academic hub, visiting professors sometimes were housed there. Philosopher and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell had offices in Royce as visiting lecturer in 1939  a bumpy year for UCLA. Some community members objected to Russell’s unconventional social views and personal lifestyle, and reporters often wandered the halls looking for his office so they could quote him on controversial subjects.

   As Ernest Moore predicted, Royce remains the heart of the university and has truly become a place of memories and the lifting of souls. Throughout its time, it is a rare student who graduates not having spent some time being enriched in a classroom, forum or cultural event at Royce.

Copyright 1998 UCLA Today
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