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    UCSB Benefactor Hoped for Great Institution

    By Martine White, Daily Nexus, November 21, 1975

    Thomas More Storke considered the entrance of Santa Barbara College into the University of California system, along with the building of Cachuma Dam, his two greatest achievements. He believed that, in addition to having the most beautiful campus site, UCSB possessed the potential to become the greatest cultural and educational institution in the U.S., if not the world. This is according to his autobiography, “California Editor.”

    Early in the 1900’s, when Storke was just establishing himself as a newspaper publisher, he and other leading citizens got together and acquired the Blake school property in downtown Santa Barbara. At first, only women attended. Then in 1913, the school was moved to the Riviera campus and became co-ed. They later applied for certification and called it Santa Barbara State Teacher’s College.

    FROM START… Storke (second from left) and then-California Governor Earl Warren (far right) at the occasion of the acquisition of the land on which UCSB now sits. (Daily Nexus photo)

    Liberal Arts Program

    In 1935, it was agreed that the college should have a more general appeal, so a liberal arts program was instituted and the name changed to Santa Barbara State College. When World War II broke out, it was envisioned that the campus would expand and construction of an industrial arts department began on new property on the Mesa. In the meantime, Storke and others were speaking with UC regents about the possibility of Santa Barbara College entering the UC system.

    In 1944, the legislature passed a bill formalizing the idea, which Governor Earl Warren signed. Pearl Chase, often referred to as the mother of SB College, prepared the presentation for the Regents and convinced them to accept it.

    Several years later, in 1948, the War Assets Administration (in charge of disposing of military property) decided to offer the marine bases near the airport as a new campus site at a cost of one dollar. The Santa Barbara community, and Storke especially, were very excited about this new development and immediately began construction of a science building and a library. These were finished in 1954, at which time the school again changed campuses.

    The Mesa property became SB City College, and the Riviera buildings were bought up by the Brooks Foundation; Metropolitan Theatres turned the auditorium into the Riviera Theatre.

    Administrators initially foresaw maximum enrollment as being approximately 3,500. However, statisticians estimated an added minimum enrollment in the UC system of 55,000 by 1970. This meant that UCSB had to prepare for a minimum of 10,000.

    Regent Appointment

    During all of this time, Storke remained on the sidelines, only indirectly involved with the University. When Francis J. Neylan, a long-time friend of Storke’s, decided to resign his position on the Board of Regents, Governor Goodwin Knight asked Storke to take his place. Storke pointed out that Neylan had resigned because he was nearing 70, and he himself was almost 80, but Knight persisted. Storke finally accepted and served on the Board for five years.

    1958 saw the advent of what Storke considered “to be the greatest cultural advance of any community activity with which I have been associated.” UCSB acquired major league status with Berkeley and Los Angeles, and became the “general” university of the UC system.

    Large Gifts

    Aside from having a powerful influence in the formation and beginnings of UCSB, Storke made substantial gifts to the scholarship funds and especially to the Student Publications Building. He donated $600,000 which, when matched by the Regents (as was their policy) from non-tax revenue monies, finally produced a total of $1.2 million to be spent on communication facilities alone.

    According to George Obern, manager of the UCSB public information office, “Storke always insisted that his name not be associated with the tower — that was the Regents’ project. He was interested only in the publications building, though he was, of course, excited that the bell tower should be constructed right on top. In spite of his poor health… he used to come out almost every day to see how the construction was coming along.”

    Obern points out that Storke is the only person in the United States to have donated towards communications facilities in schools which did not have journalism departments (he also financed a publications building at Stanford, where he received his degree). In appreciation of the gift, the Regents had the following engraved on one of the tower’s bells: “These bells ring for freedom of the press and in tribute to editor-publisher T.M. Storke, whose affection for the University has made this building possible.”

    UCen Financing

    Another major contribution was a $100,000 gift (again matched by the Regents) to help finance additions to the UCen. Francis Sedgewick, a distinguished Santa Ynez sculptor, molded a bronze head of Storke to be set inside the center in memory of his generosity.

    Storke also persuaded many of his friends to make gifts and even “begged and borrowed palm and olive trees in order to landscape the school in the true Santa Barbara tradition,” according to Obern.

    When University authorities once again brought up expansion, Storke offered to sell his property at one-fourth of market value. This ground (the area between Francisco Torres Towers and the stadium) is now referred to as the Storke campus and is being kept aside for future development.

    Though busy with the News-Press in Santa Barbara, Storke remained in close association with school officials, especially Chancellor Cheadle. Obern reports that he visited often and like to be filled in regularly on the university’s progress.

    “His” campus (said Cheadle in “A Tribute to Storke” on October 16, 1971) conferred upon him, through Clark Kerr, former UC president, its highest award some 15 years ago — an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In addition, the university cast 100 “T.M. Storke for excellence” medals in recognition of his forceful support of UCSB. One is given each year to a student exemplifying: distinguished scholarship; extraordinary service to the community or the university; and T.M.’s courage, achievement, persistence and scholarship.

    In the 94 years of Storke’s life, both Obern and Joe Kovach, publications director of ASUCSB, agree that “As a civilian, he had more influence than anyone else, other than those directly involved with the university.

    TO FINISH… Former UC President Clark Kerr, Storke, and then-Chief Justice Warren (left to right) at the dedication of Storke Communications Complex on the UCSB campus. (Daily Nexus photo)
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