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Thursday, October 21, 2021

What’s in a name

Everyday at UC Davis, students unknowingly mention the names of people influential to the campus.

When a student says they have class at Wellman Hall, they are paying homage to the 13th president of the University of California. Likewise, every time a student says they have to study at Peter J. Shields Library they are honoring the founder of UC Davis.

Now, every time engineering students have to go to Engineering 3, which houses the engineering and applied science departments and research facilities, they will be calling it by a different name: Ghausi Hall.

Bruce R. White, the current dean of engineering, was instrumental in the recommendation and proposal process for the naming of Ghausi Hall. The building was named after Mohammed S. Ghausi, a former dean of engineering at UC Davis.

White said that Ghausi, who he often called Mo, was a perfect choice for the naming of Engineering 3.

“He had a ‘can-do’ attitude that was contagious … he bred success,” he said.

Ghausi, who retired in 1996, played a crucial role in the success of the UC Davis engineering department. With the former dean of engineering’s help, UC Davis became one of the top 20 public institutions for engineering, White said.

“His was a very influential period … he set the tone and was instrumental in attracting students,” White said.

The naming process began more than a year ago when White began talking with Zuhair Munir, retired dean emeritus of the College of Engineering, about the naming of Engineering 3.

White then started a committee that created a proposal, which included information on Ghausi’s background and major contributions to the university.

The proposal was then sent to the chancellor and to the Board on the Naming of UC Davis Properties for review before being sent for final approval to the UC president.

John Meyer, the vice chancellor of administration and resource management, said there are two families of naming buildings.

The first types are buildings named after individuals who have made significant contributions to the university. The second are buildings recognizing individuals who have made substantial gifts.

“Over time, the majority of buildings were named after professors and deans … but in recent history, the chancellor is placing great emphasis on recognizing donors,” Meyer said.

Meyer cited two buildings on campus as examples of this shift towards recognizing donors. The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and the Graduate School of Managements’ Gallagher Hall, named after UC alumnus Maurice J. Gallagher, CEO of Allegiant, are two such examples.

Ghausi Hall also had the potential to be named after donors shortly after its construction, White said.

Recognized donors are not limited to just individuals. Corporations who make philanthropic gifts to support UC Davis can also be recognized although that has not happened much, White said.

UC Berkeley’s Bechtal Auditorium, named after a world recognized private construction firm, is one example of a building named after a large donor corporation.

Individuals and donors’ involvement in the construction of buildings typically goes no farther than lending names or monetary contributions. However, one building on campus, Giedt Hall, honors an individual who actively helped with its construction.

The building is named after Warren and Leta Giedt. The couple had no children of their own and therefore donated the majority of their estate to the university. They remained involved in everything from the construction to picking of the materials for Giedt Hall, White said.

Shortly after the naming ceremony, Warren Giedt, a retired engineering professor emeritus, passed away.

“He kept himself alive and saw the building being used by students. He was a very remarkable person,” White said.

UC Davis’s naming process for buildings is unique compared to other UC campuses. UC Davis is one of the only universities in the UC system to allow individuals to be alive during the naming process.

Like Giedt, Ghausi was honored in the naming ceremony where he made a speech accepting the naming of Ghausi Hall in front of family and friends.

“It’s a rather nice feature of the [naming] process … that [the individuals] can enjoy the benefits and the honor of having a building named after them,” White said.

JESSY WEI can be reached at the features@theaggie.org.

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