For many Bruins, the iconic Gothic spires of Kerckhoff Hall, rising majestically high above campus, are second only to Royce Hall as a symbol of UCLA. Kerckhoff’s emotional appeal traces all the way back to the building’s dedication.
On Jan. 20, 1931, some 6,000 students gathered for official dedication ceremonies of the Westwood campus’ first student union building. The structure was made possible by a gift of $715,000 by Louise Kerckhoff, in honor of her late husband, William G. Kerckhoff, who on his deathbed asked his wife to carry out his intentions to provide funds for a student union.
Louise Kerckhoff ensured that his wishes were not only carried out, but that the building honored his memory. She visited the construction site almost daily to make certain that the workmanship and materials met her exacting standards. Details of Kerckhoff’s life are embedded in the building. The stained glass images of a redwood tree and a dam on the fourth floor, for example, refer to Kerckhoff’s successful career in the lumber business and his contributions to the development of hydroelectric power.
Louise Kerckhoff also gave $100,000 to fully furnish the facility – making the $815,000 donated the largest single gift by an individual to UCLA up to that point.
Too overcome with emotion to speak at the dedication ceremony, Louise Kerckhoff left words to others as she silently presented the key to the building to California Gov. James Rolph Jr., who accepted on behalf of the people of California.
“Mr. Kerckhoff was a man of vision, of kindly instincts, generous to a fault,” Rolph said, “and he ever bore in mind that some parts of his riches should be given for others to enjoy.”
Top image: Some 6,000 students help celebrate the official opening of Kerckhoff Hall on Jan. 20, 1931
Bottom image: From the left, prominent UC notables and friends attend the opening ceremonies of Kerckhoff Hall, including Allan C. Balch; Ernest Carroll Moore, director of UCLA; Louise Kerckhoff; California Gov. James Rolph, Jr.; Lucy Guild ’31, president of the Associated Women Students of UCLA; and Earle Swingle ’31, president of the Associated Students of UCLA