Today’s feature in our On This Day series takes us back fifty-five years to October 23, 1959 and the inauguration of Emil Mrak as the second Chancellor of UC Davis. Mrak’s appointment as Chancellor began on July 1, 1959 following the retirement of Chancellor Stanley Freeborn and the official inauguration ceremonies followed several months later in October.
Some 1500 University students, faculty, community members, and delegates from 42 other California colleges and universities attended the inauguration ceremony which took place in the Sunken Garden (now the site of the courtyard of Shields Library). University of California President Clark Kerr conducted the ceremony which included a speech by President Conrad A. Elvehjem of the University of Wisconsin. As part of the ceremony, honorary degrees were presented to Elvehjem and food engineer David Peebles.
Mrak (1901-1987) was appointed as an instructor in Food Technology in 1937 at UC Berkeley. He became Professor and Department Chairman in 1948, and in 1951 transferred with most of his staff to the UC Davis campus to reorganize and expand the Department of Food Science and Technology here.
Mrak served as Chancellor during a time of unprecedented growth for the campus. When he became Chancellor, UC Davis had approximately 2,000 undergraduates and more than 600 graduate students. By 1967, student enrollment was over 10,000. During Mrak’s tenure the following campus units were established: Graduate Division (1961), College of Engineering (1962), National Center for Primate Biology (now the California National Primate Research Center) (1962), School of Law (1964), Crocker Nuclear Laboratory (1965), and the School of Medicine (1966).
Mrak retired as Chancellor in 1969 and was succeeded by James Meyer.