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Environmentalism at Center of John Muir College 50th Anniversary Celebration

The life and legacy of the college’s namesake honored throughout 2017-2018 academic year

As the University of California San Diego’s second college, John Muir College admitted its first students in 1967. 50 years later, the college is celebrating its golden anniversary with a year-long series of festive events. Muir’s current students and alumni are invited to the college for a kick-off festival for the reveal of the time capsule sealed and buried by the founding class from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 2. Other events include a talk from one of the college’s founding faculty, Irwin Jacobs, a week of celebratory events for John Muir’s birthday, which coincides with the campus’s Earth Month activities, as well as an environmental conference featuring Muir biographer Donald Worster.

The remarkable life of the college's namesake, the 19th century environmentalist, nature writer and founder of the Sierra Club, continues to inspire and inform the vision and core values of the college. 

“John Muir was also an inventor and businessman; he was a remarkable person who forged his own path and took risks,” said John Moore, former Muir Provost and Interim Dean of Undergraduate Education. “The college’s motto, ‘Celebrating the Independent Spirit,’ expresses our wish for all our students to lead varied, successful, committed and self-directed lives. This theme as well as our commitment to the environment will be weaved into many of our anniversary events.”

Muir College’s general education requirements were designed to be the most flexible of all the colleges, offering students from every major maximum freedom to choose courses that meet individual goals and interests within a framework that insures depth of knowledge across three major disciplinary areas. These requirements combine individual choice and responsibility while encouraging experiential learning programs such as education abroad.

John Muir College

“John Muir College is a special place that is known for its welcoming, supportive community,” said K. Wayne Yang, Acting Provost of John Muir College. “Muir students are recognized and respected for their individuality, fostering their independent spirit.”

Muir College is located on the western edge of UC San Diego and is the closest of the colleges to the beach. It is home to some of the tallest buildings on campus, many of which have spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.  In honor of John Muir, the names of several buildings and gathering places at the college evoke the landscape of Yosemite National Park, which Muir urged the federal government to establish. The college’s architecture has won many awards for its striking modernist consistency. 

Information on John Muir College’s 50th Anniversary events are below. For more about Muir College, click here

  • Time Capsule Reveal, Oct. 2, 5:30 to 7 p.m.: Muir’s current students and alumni are invited to the college for a kick-off festival with refreshments, bagpipes and the reveal of the time capsule sealed and buried by the founding class.
  • 50th Anniversary Pumpkin Drop, Oct. 27, 12:30 p.m.: Students will drop a humongous candy-filled pumpkin from the 11th story of Tioga hall on the Friday before Halloween. Inside the pumpkin will be an assortment of individually wrapped candy, which students scurry to claim. The pumpkin’s “splat” is measured each year. The largest splat in the history of the pumpkin drop occurred in 1995, when a 398-pound pumpkin spewed over 100 feet. Before and after the drop there will be a Halloween carnival sponsored by the college.
  • Special Lecture from Irwin Jacobs, “The Beginnings of A Great University,” Nov. 15, 7 p.m., location TBD: Jacobs is co-founder, former chairman and CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated and a UC San Diego founding faculty member, who served as a professor in electrical and computer engineering from 1966 to 1972. Jacobs’ appointment was at Muir College. He and his wife Joan are the biggest benefactors to UC San Diego. For this special talk, he will focus on the beginnings of a great university.
  • Muir Musical presents “Jesus Christ Superstar,” April 7 to 14, various times, Mandeville Auditorium: The Muir Musical is a UC San Diego student organization that produces one completely student-run musical theatre production annually. Students from all six UC San Diego colleges are invited to participate in a full-scale Broadway production that marks the single musical theatre opportunity for UC San Diego students all year long. This year, students will be performing “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
  • John Muir Week, April 16 to 20, various times and locations: The celebration will kick off with a birthday party for John Muir on April 16 at noon at the Middle of Muir (MOM). Other events include the annual Muir Environmental Fellows organic luncheon April 18, where UC San Diego alumni, staff or faculty will be honored for their work to make the university and the world more environmentally sustainable for future generations. The week will conclude with the burial of the new John Muir College time capsule.
  • Symposium: After the West: Rethinking John Muir's Environmental Legacy, April 23, time and location TBD: As part of the Environments in Motion lecture series, co-sponsored by Muir College and the Division of Arts and Humanities, this symposium dedicated to the life and work of John Muir will be held on Earth Day, April 23. It will feature an international panel of scholars devoted to a critical discussion and appraisal of the legacy and thought of Muir to commemorate the college’s anniversary. Renowned historian and Muir scholar, Donald Worster, will deliver the keynote address. His most recent book, “A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir,” was named the best work of non-fiction by the Scottish Arts Council and won the Ambassador Award for Biography from the English Speaking Union. The Washington Post named it one the best books published in 2008. Earlier books include “A River Running West,” “The Wealth of Nature” and “Under Western Skies, Rivers of Empire, Dust Bowl.”

    John Muir College is one of UC San Diego’s six undergraduate colleges. The college system at UC San Diego is a unique university structure that personalizes the delivery of services to undergraduate students. The colleges are residential neighborhoods on campus with their own residence facilities, staff, traditions and general education requirements. For more information, click here.


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