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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2
   

The Intellectual Eatery
by Neda Oreizy, ’08

 
     

From occasional meetings in a local hotel to 20 years nestled under the benevolent eyes of the Sun God, the Faculty Club has served as a gathering place for UC San Diego’s professors.

UCSD’s faculty club had its first meeting at the local Holiday Inn in 1968. “By being off campus, it didn’t have the draw,” Laura Long, the assistant vice chancellor of business affairs, told the Guardian with modest understatement, on November 15, 1987.

As the years passed, a regular home for faculty gatherings still remained low on the list of the new University’s priorities. Then in 1980, the club’s president, Murray Goodman, happened to be in Washington, D.C., and met with soon-to-be chancellor, Richard Atkinson, who was still at the National Science Foundation. Atkinson asked Goodman what he felt UCSD needed most. His response: a faculty club.

And with a $1 million donation from Ida and Cecil Green, the founders of Texas Instruments and the club’s namesake, the University broke ground on the land between the Sun God and Peterson Hall in 1987. One year later, the Ida and Cecil Green Faculty Club opened its doors, providing a social center and a new home for the University’s nomadic group of academics.

Twenty years later, it has grown into a campus center, where faculty, staff and alumni can socialize, exchange ideas and enjoy international cuisine. And to celebrate the milestone, the club is planning an April 5 anniversary.

The Club now welcomes 1,250 members, and its facilities were recently doubled when it expanded in 2006. The new Atkinson Pavilion allows for conference space, an expanded atrium for outdoor seating and a larger kitchen. In addition, the Club is now ready with open arms to welcome alumni to its membership and the members-only lunch, its most popular meal.

The Ice-Cream Bobs
The daily lunch crowd usually overflows into the outdoor patio and conversations can range from political theory to string theory. Regulars include a group of mathematicians and another group all named Bob. The “Bobs” meets weekly for ice cream but often break the Bob rule by regularly welcoming Herb York. Other tables are based on games such as Rummikub or bridge. And there is Roger’s table, in honor of founding member Roger Revelle. According to Club President Sally Ashburn, this has been in existence since day one and reflects Revelle’s wish that there should be a place where single diners can get to know each other.

Sir Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953 and a distinguished research professor at the Salk Institute, was a regular until he passed away in 2004. “He used to dine here three to four days a week. It was like a rock star being in the dining room,” Executive Director Tom Mignano says. “Visiting scholars would come in and point at him.”

Music professor Cecil Lytle often holds office hours at the Club. “I regularly take a half dozen or so students to lunch at the Faculty Club to discuss the course topics or anything that comes to their minds,” Lytle says. “I’ve found that plying people with free food loosens their tongues and creative minds.”

Table Talk
In between the daily lunches and larger weekend events, the Faculty Club hosts formal functions for nearly every department and college on campus. Serving primarily as a center for academic exchanges, events such as the Economics Roundtable attract academics of all disciplines to listen to some of the world’s most accomplished economists, including Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, California Public Utilities Commission President Loretta Lynch and former Harvard President Lawrence Summers.

And then there’s the weddings. With an average of 20 receptions held each year, the club is becoming popular for alumni who want to return to their campus roots. “One of the reasons we were partial to the Faculty Club was because Scott and I are alums,” Christina Weisgraber, Third/Marshall ’90. “The Faculty Club is also ideal because while it’s not terribly fancy, it still boasts a respectable and comfortable ambience.”

Food for thought
The staff gets to show its creative side during the quarterly wine dinners—a favorite event for Ashburn and Mignano. These often have historical themes ranging from the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday and they have found that this combination of period cuisine and history lecture makes the perfect Faculty Club evening, bringing together people from every facet of UCSD.

The Faculty Club’s success can be attributed, at least in part, to the chef, Ed Koengeter, and his carefully constructed and highly creative cuisine. Chef Ed, as Mignano calls him, is a connoisseur of food and has a personal wine cellar of over 700 wines. “There is a special magic that exists between wine and food,” Koengeter says. “Sometimes I try to match flavors that exist in both the food and the wine I’m choosing. For instance, an earthy cherry component in a Pinot Noir matched a grilled meat selection topped with a Dried Cherry Sauce and Sautéed Mushrooms. Other times I’ll go for contrast.”

Few events can top the Dr. Seuss-themed truffulah tree salad or the tin-roof sundaes, green eggs and ham (a spinach knish) and one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish entrée from March 25, 2004, which celebrated Dr. Seuss’ Centennial.
The Faculty Club has come a long way from its Holiday Inn days. “Everyday, faculty, staff, alumni, students, administrators and community members come here to collaborate, generating ideas that drive UCSD’s momentum as a leader in higher education and research,” Mignano says. “It’s kind of the mission of the Faculty Club . . . the idea of bringing folks together.”

Identify yourself as a UCSD Alumni Association member and receive a Faculty Club discount for a private party, special event or membership. For more information visit Alumni Benefits at: www.alumni.ucsd.edu/membership.

Neda Oreizy, Marshall ’08, is the editorial intern at @UCSD magazine and a senior staff writer at the Guardian.

RELATED LINKS

Ida & Cecil Green Faculty Club

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UCSD Alumni Association Membership

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"From occasional meeting sin a local hotel to 20 years nestled under the benevolent eyes fo the Sun God, the Faculty Club has served as a gathering place..."