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‘Preparing the Soil’: La Jolla Shores resident’s book explores history of UC San Diego land

"Preparing the Soil for UC San Diego" by La Jolla Shores resident Jack Fisher
“Preparing the Soil for UC San Diego” by La Jolla Shores resident Jack Fisher documents the various uses over the years of the land on which UCSD now sits.
(Courtesy of Jack Fisher)

La Jolla Shores resident and retired UC San Diego medical professor Jack Fisher wanted to write a book about how UCSD acquired its land and developed into the 2,178-acre campus it is today. To get there, he went straight to the source.

He spent a year poring over the campus deeds of trust that are held in Oakland by the treasurer’s office of the University of California Board of Regents, reached out for help in interpreting them and studied documents pertaining to the deliberations involved.

The result, “Preparing the Soil for UC San Diego: Land, Thoroughfares and Local Expectations,” was published recently by the UC San Diego Emeriti Association.

The 60-page book documents the various uses of the land on which UCSD now sits, including its involvement in the World War II effort, development of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and General Atomics campuses, post-war developments, the arrival of a university in La Jolla and how the campus has changed over time.

La Jolla Shores resident Jack Fisher came to UC San Diego in 1975 and was an early doctor in the surgical specialty division.
La Jolla Shores resident Jack Fisher came to UC San Diego in 1975 and was an early doctor in the surgical specialty division.
(Courtesy of Jack Fisher)

“I’ve gotten the book into the hands of some people not connected to the university, and many of them are taken aback by the role that San Diego played in World War II, the war-related research done at SIO and the diversity of opinion as to what kind of university we should have,” Fisher told the La Jolla Light.

Roger Revelle, a scientist involved in UCSD’s early development, wanted a graduate school rather than a comprehensive university, Fisher said.

“I found that opinions varied widely about what sort of new university San Diego should anticipate and then support,” Fisher writes. “Revelle never strayed from his principal mission: establish graduate institutes of science and engineering.”

However, “to [Revelle’s] everlasting regret,” UC regents were proposing new campuses for universities, including a general campus for San Diego. “Meanwhile, city councilmen were thrilled to learn that the regents might assign a general campus to San Diego,” Fisher writes. “Members had long hoped to expand opportunities for undergraduate education in the city.”

The university was established in 1960. Fisher came to UCSD in 1975 and was an early doctor in the surgical specialty division. He continued his work into the 1990s, when he retired and got a degree in history.

Now the historian of the Emeriti Association, Fisher said he “needed something to do” and took a deep dive into the history of the campus.

“Keenly aware of my interest in local history, UC President Emeritus (and former UC San Diego Chancellor) Dick Atkinson called my attention to past UCSD histories that deal incorrectly with campus land acquisitions,” Fisher writes. “The reason, I discovered, was that prior works had not drawn from nor cited the original deeds. And so I began my search.”

His work has been available in essay form through the Emeriti Association but was only recently compiled into a book. “Preparing the Soil” can be purchased through the association for $20. Learn more by emailing emeriti@ucsd.edu. ◆