On June 20th, 1964, a crowd of 15,000 people followed newly paved, two-land roads to a wide-open, no shade site on former Irvine Ranch pastureland.
Invited guests and dignitaries filled the reserved seating area near the temporary stage. When the rest of the chairs were filled, the overflow crowd found spots to sit on the barren hillside.
They came out on that summer Saturday to witness an historic moment in local history.
The University of California at Irvine, which was just beginning to rise out of cattle grazing hills , was about to be dedicated. The first day of class was still 15 months away, but hopes were high for the newest UC campus.
After all, the President of the United States would soon be there.
Presidential candidates had visited four previous times on campaign swings through southern California. But the UCI dedication appearance by Lyndon B. Johnson was the first time an elected U.S. President had visited Orange County.
Just before midday, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Band began to play as the President's helicopter landed nearby. Johnson moved quickly though the receiving line and took his place on the covered stage. Chancellor Daniel Aldrich was the first to address the crowd.
"It is my privilege on behalf of the family of the University of California at Irvine, to welcome all of you here to an event that marks the beginning of a chapter in the nearly 100 year history of the University of California."
-Chancellor Daniel Aldrich
A parade of speakers followed Aldrich, including Clark Kerr, President of the University of California and California Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown. Finally, the 36th President of the United States stepped to the podium.
"All our hopes for peace depend on the kind of society we can build in the United States, and that in turn rests on our system of education."
-President Lyndon B Johnson
After the President's remarks, the All-Orange County High School Choir led the crowd in a rendition of the University Hymn.
President Johnson boarded his helicopter, but not before ignoring the concerns of the Secret Service and taking the time to shake hands with well-wishers.
On Sunday, June 14th, 2014, President Barak Obama honored UCI's Site Dedication Anniversary when he gave the Commencement speech to the Class of 2014. The graduating students assembled at Angels Stadium represented a diverse collection of cultures. 50% of them were first generation graduates.
To acknowledge that historic Saturday in June of 1964, the university invited representatives of all of the original dignitaries to attend the Commencement Ceremony. Founding First Lady Jean Aldrich was there.
"It is astonishing to me that I am here for the 50th Anniversary because it seems like such a short time ago," said Mrs. Aldrich. "We were fortunate to have been part of it."
Images Courtesy of UCI Special Collection Archive