History Department


History 303: Research and Writing Seminar in History


Andrew Morris


It is a common practice to name a university’s buildings, fields, and monuments after its past presidents, prominent administrators, or gracious donors. Starting from the school’s earliest days as a two-year vocational institution and continuing today as a four-year state university, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo frequently named buildings after notable individuals. But what distinguishes these certain people to be recognized with their name on a lasting artifact of this prestigious school? And how does the naming process operate? This paper explores why specific administrators and faculty between 1928-1988 were commemorated with their names on buildings at Cal Poly, while the most recent name additions from 1996-2004 were all millionaire sponsors. This will lead to a discussion of how policies on the naming of buildings at Cal Poly have been altered over time. By examining the reasons for the names behind Cal Poly’s edifices, I hope to expose the recent growing role of donors in financing schools. This issue is important in the overall history of why university funding has recently changed from state to private support, and how Cal Poly has survived this economic and political change.