UCSD Turns 60 Years Old


Niloufar Shahbandi

This year marks the 60th anniversary of UC San Diego. Founded in 1960 by Roger Revelle, UCSD has become one of the best public universities in the nation, as well as one of the top 20 research universities in the world.  

UCSD History 

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography preceded UCSD, and was founded in 1903. It is one of the “oldest and largest centers for ocean and Earth science research, public service, undergraduate and graduate training in the world.” SIO became part of the UC system in 1912. 

In its first year of establishment between 1961–1962, UCSD consisted of only 160 students in the Biology department. In the following year, the humanities department was created with two sub-departments: Philosophy and Literature. 

UCSD’s early history was shaped by the tumultuous events of the 1960s, including the Civil Rights and the Anti-War movements. Inspired by large demonstrations at UC Berkeley, UCSD also became a hotspot for protests against the Vietnam War.

Over the next 60 years, the six UCSD colleges were added slowly. In 1965, with a campus population of 560 students, First College was named after Roger Revelle, the father of the university. The following year, Second College (John Muir) was established. In 1970, Third College (Thurgood Marshall) was opened for the first time, followed by Fourth College (Earl Warren) in 1974, Fifth College (Eleanor Roosevelt) in 1989, and Sixth College in 2001. 

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the advocacy work done by graduate student activist Angela Davis later influenced the naming of Third College after US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as a means to acknowledge minority students on campus. Later in 1995, in further attempts to acknowledge students with underrepresented and underprivileged backgrounds, UCSD debuted the Cross-Cultural Center.

In 1986, UCSD broadened its academic offerings by establishing the first cognitive science department in the world and creating the Division of Social Sciences. Later in 1995, UCSD established the first department of bioengineering in the U.S.


There are currently more than 200,000 UCSD alumni around the world, with many notable alumni who have been successful in fields ranging from literature to astronomy.

Alicia Garza is a 2002 UCSD alumnus who co-founded the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2013, following the murder of Trayvon Martin. Garza graduated with a degree in anthropology and sociology and in her final year at college, she helped to organize the first Women of Color Conference, a university-wide convocation held at UCSD in 2002.

Jessica Meir received her doctorate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2009 with a degree in Marine Biology. She is one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class, has completed 3 spacewalks —including the first all-female spacewalk — and may be chosen for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions to the moon. 

Best- selling author Khaled Hosseini, who has published books such as “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” is a 2009 alumnus of the UCSD School of Medicine. 


UCSD ranks NO.8 among public U.S universities and 34th worldwide by the Center for World University Rankings. These rankings were based on quality of education, alumni employment, quality of faculty, and research performance.

Geisel Library is ranked among the nation’s top 25 public academic libraries. One of the most recognizable symbols of UCSD, Geisel Library was designed and completed in 1970 by William Pereira. The futuristic design of the building has inspired many filmmakers and has been featured in several films and television shows, such as “Simon and Simon,” “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” and was the inspiration for the “snow fortress” in “Inception.”

As a research-heavy institution, UCSD has made significant scientific contributions including developing “effective methods of blocking malaria transmission in mosquitoes; creating biodegradable algae-based flip-flops designed to help eradicate plastic waste; and building a camera network that has become a vital firefighting tool helping first responders confirm and monitor wildfires across California.”

Originally, UCSD was founded to serve a few graduate students in physics, chemistry, and earth sciences but the university’s research-oriented pathways have resulted in more than 1,000 companies using technology created at UCSD.

Although UCSD has greatly expanded during the past 60 years, it is still continuing to grow with the newest addition of Seventh College and the newly completed North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood. Enrollment continues to be on the rise as well, with over 38,000 students enrolled for the 2019–2020 academic year.

Photo courtesy of UC San Diego.