Portrait of Gabbert, John G.

Gabbert, John G.

April 2, 1998

March 6, 1998

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The Honorable Justice John Gabbert, one of the founders of the campus, reviews the plans and strategies used by community leaders for establishing the UC Riverside campus fifty years ago.
Excerpt from Transcript
Gabbert: Then about the time the Strayer Committee got active, they came to Riverside unannounced.

Erickson: Oh.

Gabbert: And, it was kind of peculiar. The Mayor of Riverside, Walter Davidson, contacted Ira Landis, who was Superintendent of Schools and said, "There are some educators coming out to Riverside today. I don't know what they want, but I think it's about the University." He said, "What should we do with them?" Mr. Landis contacted the Director of the Experiment Station, it was Dr. Batchelor at that time and said these people were coming and what could he do. So, it is my understanding that Batchelor and his wife (I don't know whether there were others) took these two men, Strayer and Dr. Jones, to lunch. They invited Mrs. Bonnett to lunch.

After lunch, Mrs. Bonnett took them for a ride out Victoria Avenue. They toured what was then the campus of the Citrus Experiment Station, and then she took them on a tour out Victoria Avenue. The Bonnett's lived on the corner of Madison or Adams and Victoria. They had an orange grove there, a ranch of sorts, a substantial one I mean.

It was there that they met Mort Bonnett. Dr. Jones discovered that Mort Bonnett had been captain of the track team at Stanford when he was there, so they had a common interest. As a result of that, a kind of friendship developed. And that was the kind of catalyst that then brought the matter up to the Unified School Board.

Erickson: And Mrs. Bonnett was a member of the school board?

Gabbert: She was President of the school board at that time. I was a member of the board. Now, I think--and of course memory plays a trick on you after fifty years--but I think that Mrs. Bonnett, and we all had talked among ourselves not in an official meeting, thought that we ought to do something as the school board to assist the program to develop a branch of the University here.

Mrs. Bonnett suggested that we ought to try to have a unified committee, and we all agreed on that.

Questions Regarding this Oral History Project should be directed to Jan Erickson at jan.erickson@ucr.edu.