UC San Diego News Center


UC San Diego Founders’ Celebration Ushers in a New Era of Tradition, Innovation and Fun

Founders Day

Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Area 51: It’s the most well-known secret facility ever created, a world-renowned military installation whose mere mention immediately conjures images of aliens, top secret technology and vast government conspiracies. Era 51: It’s the theme of the University of California, San Diego’s Founders’ Celebration, November 17-19, and is meant to evoke today’s traditions, tomorrow’s innovations and 51 years of achieving the extraordinary. What do the two have in common? They both celebrate the desire to explore, create and achieve, and they’re both something many people can have fun with.

“UC San Diego’s Founders’ Celebration will have something for everyone,” said Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. “During our ‘Era 51’, the events will celebrate our heritage, showcase our visionary leaders and innovations that make us a top 10 public university, and honor some of the extraordinary people who have made UC San Diego’s mission possible.”

Founders’ Celebration will kick off with the Founders’ Symposium on Thursday, Nov. 17. Called “Flash Forward from 50: A Sneak Preview of UC San Diego’s New Directions in Research and Discovery,” the no-cost event will highlight the university’s innovative spirit and show how new transformative, interdisciplinary initiatives are shaping the campus’s future in education and research. The symposium begins at 5 p.m. and will take place in the new Medical Education and Telemedicine Learning Building on the UC San Diego campus. Featured speakers will include:

  • Mark Thiemens, dean of the Division of Physical Sciences;
  • Steve Kay, dean of the Division of Biological Sciences;
  • Peter Cowhey, dean of the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies; and
  • George Tynan, associate vice chancellor for Research.
corner cupcakes

Following on the heels of the Founders’ Symposium will be Founders’ Day on Friday, Nov. 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m in Town Square. One of the university’s newer traditions, Founders’ Day is a free event commemorating the day the campus was officially founded in 1960 and will highlight UC San Diego’s history as well as celebrate the university’s future. The festivities will feature a brief program and a fun street festival atmosphere with affinity booths, raffles and prizes, music by the UC San Diego Pep Band and a sampling of innovative fare provided by some of San Diego’s most popular food trucks including Tabé, Flippin Pizza, Green Truck, Corner Cupcakes and Super Q.

That evening, the Founders’ Day fun will continue with “Hullabaloo,” a student-oriented festival that celebrates 51 years of UC San Diego’s commitment to creating a vibrant student life. “Hullabaloo” boasts a dance stage featuring both student talent and nationally touring acts; large-scale carnival rides; cuisine by local food trucks; and student organization-run games and booths. For more information on “Hullabaloo,” visit

Founders’ Celebration activities will conclude on Saturday, Nov. 19 with the Founders’ Dinner honoring the 2011 Chancellor’s Medal awardees. One of the highest honors given by UC San Diego, the Chancellor's Medal recognizes exceptional service in support of the university's mission. The campus’s RIMAC Arena will be transformed for an evening of celebration and tribute to the individuals whose generous support has been integral to making innovation possible. Guests will first enjoy a reception in an early California garden-like setting, before moving on to an intimate dinner with Chancellor Fox and recipients of the Chancellor’s Medals, who include:

  • Richard and Rita Atkinson
  • John and Ann Davies
  • Sheldon and Susan Engelhorn
  • Anne Ratner
  • L.S. and Aline Skaggs

“I am delighted to honor these remarkable visionaries with Chancellor’s Medals; they are truly citizens of the highest order," said Fox. “As we look forward to the next half century, it is only fitting that we recognize these outstanding leaders who have helped make UC San Diego so extraordinary.”

Founders’ Dinner is $250 per person, with proceeds benefiting undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships as part of UC San Diego’s $50 million student support campaign, Invent the Future. Tables are available for $2,500. Visit to register.

As a precursor to the main events, UC San Diego is also hosting two activities designed to get the campus and community excited about Founders’ Celebration. These include:

  • A video contest highlighting the remarkable innovations of UC San Diego students, staff, faculty and alumni. Called “Era 51: What R U Doing?” the contest invites entrants to creatively depict what they are doing that has an impact in any given area (e.g., technology, community service, sustainability, etc.). The winning video will earn a premiere party at The Loft, with a $200 gift certificate to Zanzibar Café. The complete contest rules are available here.
  • Two Faculty Research Award lectures hosted by the UC San Diego Academic Senate. The first lecture will take place Tuesday, Nov. 8 and features Professor Marcel Hénaff of the Division of Arts and Humanities who will be speaking on “An Economy in Crisis – A Crisis of Civilization: Anthropological Perspectives on Money, Debt and Time.” The second lecture occurs on Thursday, Nov. 10 and features Professor Nicholas C. Spitzer of the Division of Biological Sciences who will discuss “The Changing Brain: How the Environment Switches Neurotransmitters and Behavior.” Both lectures will begin with a reception at 4 p.m. at the UC San Diego Faculty Club with the lecture to follow from 4:30-6 p.m.

All Founders’ Celebration and related events and activities are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. For more information, please visit