A monument to Jackie Robinson, one of UCLA’s most celebrated alumni and the first player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, was unveiled at a campus ceremony Saturday as a lasting memorial to his shining legacy of courage, integrity and grace.
To honor him, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Janina Montero and other campus dignitaries gathered at the new monument with Robinson’s niece Kathy Robinson Young and alumnus Casey Wasserman, president and CEO of the Wasserman Foundation and chairman of LA 2024 Olympic bid committee. The monument was made possible by the generosity of the Wasserman Foundation.
Positioned in front of the John Wooden Recreation Center, the monument — a 42-inch-tall “42” in bronze mounted on a bronze base — displays a plaque emblazoned with one of Robinson’s most oft-quoted sayings: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” It continues:
From 1939-1941, Jackie Robinson made his mark at UCLA as a four-sport star for the Bruins: in football, a peerless running back; in basketball, the leading scorer; in track, a national champion; and in baseball, a highly-regarded shortstop.
He forever changed the world on April 15, 1947, shattering the color barrier in Major League Baseball while wearing the number 42.
In 2014, to mark the 75th anniversary of Robinson’s arrival in Westwood, UCLA named its athletic and recreation complex in his honor while also announcing that no Bruin, in any sport, will wear the number 42 ever again.
This monument ensures that Jackie Robinson’s legacy will be carried forward by Bruins for generations to come.
In November 2014, UCLA officially named 22 of its facilities as the Jackie Robinson Athletics and Recreation Complex. An in-ground bronze plaque with the number 42 marks each entrance to these training centers, competition sites, fields and stadiums as a reminder of Robinson’s tremendous courage in the face of adversity. The monument unveiled today serves as the central piece that will mark the complex.
“Jackie is one of us, he’s a Bruin,” said UCLA Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero during the unveiling ceremony. “And it’s my hope that through this monument, so generously funded by the Wasserman Foundation, generations of future Bruins will walk this campus keeping the legacy of Jackie Robinson in the forefront of both their hearts and their minds.”
While Robinson donned many numbers at UCLA, the number 42 has become as iconic as the man himself.
When UCLA announced in 2014 that it was retiring the number 42 in all sports for all time as a tribute to Robinson, there were three Bruin student-athletes who wore that number. They became the last UCLA athletes to wear that number and were given the honor of representing the Robinson legacy for the remainder of their athletic careers at UCLA.
“When I think of his number, I think of greatness, strength, courage and all of those kinds of qualities that Jackie Robinson encompassed and exemplified in his life,” said Ally Courtnall at the time of the announcement. A defender on the 2015 women’s soccer team, she wore number 42.
“If I could only be somewhat close to that, it would be amazing,” she said. “It is such an honor to have his number on my back. I just see him as such a great example. I look at that number before every game, and I hope to do my family and the number proud.”
At the official ceremony naming of the Jackie Robinson Athletics and Recreation Complex in 2014, Chancellor Block said, “Jackie Robinson’s name and his legacy are an honor to this university and to all the students and student-athletes who will continue to be inspired by his courage, dignity and grace. Jackie detested injustice, fought for civil rights, and his spirit of breaking barriers has been, and always will be, a guiding force of UCLA past, present and future.”