We come from a different kind of university.
We’re not big on bricks and ivy—our league
is another entirely. One that stretches across
oceans, that dives as deep into DNA as it
does modern dance. Ours is a campus where
theories are posed and boundaries are broken, where conventions are shaken and new
concepts are king.
This all began in 1960, when UC San Diego
was itself just a concept, and there was one
man who could see it clearest: Roger Revelle.
He could see it—all of us learning, graduating and going on to make our impact on the
world. Revelle saw greatness and recruited
the brightest minds of his time, hand-picking
faculty and a graduate student body that led
our legacy of discovery.
In 1964, when the U.S. Marine Corps gave
our first Chancellor Herbert York the land
that held the former Camp Matthews, our
founders took that military base and made
the academic marvel we’re all now a part
of. On fields that once held target practice,
undergraduate minds were sharpened and
challenged to shoot for stars. We took classes
in Quonset huts and the barracks became
our bookstore. No other alumni have such
bootstrap beginnings—we made ourselves
from scratch here on the cliffs, treading upon
eucalyptus and breathing in the sea salt as
And boy, did we study. You don’t become one
of the top 15 research institutions in the world
by resting on laurels. This history of distinction rests upon you, Tritons. You made this
university as much as it made you. You make
up our tradition of nontradition. This is how it
began, and you are how it continues.
Numbered beanies adorned UC San Diego’s first
185 freshman undergraduates (below) during
orientation week in 1964. Students would go on to
create the university’s most nontraditional events,
like the Watermelon Drop in 1965 and, years later,
the Snowball Fiesta at Muir College in 1976.
Photos courtesy UC San Diego Mandeville
Special Collections Library/Scripps Institution
of Oceanography Archives.