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May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

My View
by Rachel Rubin Green, Revelle 76

If you have any stories about your years at UCSD, we would love to hear them.
Email the editor

My son called me after the first day of his UCSD graduate school recruitment visit. “We went to your place overlooking the ocean, Mom, and I sat there and decided that I would be crazy to go to grad school anyplace else.”

My place overlooking the ocean. I knew exactly where. The undeveloped promontory overlooking Black’s Beach off La Jolla Farms Road. This large area at the top of a cliff was geologically unstable enough to avoid construction and, in the 30-plus years since I left UCSD, the University has come to own this property, currently called “Scripps Biodiversity Reserve.”

My special place is the tip of this promontory, where you stand or sit about 500 feet almost ­directly above the beach. To your left you see La Jolla Shores Drive as it winds down the hill. You see Scripps Institution of Oceanography and pier, and the town of La Jolla in the distance, jutting into the sea. And everywhere the rich and magnificent and endless Pacific.

UCSD was, at the time I started, fall quarter of 1972, a small campus. Only Revelle and Muir Colleges had permanent buildings. The poured cement dormitories at Muir had recently been ­featured in the Woody Allen film, Sleeper. Third College, now called Thurgood Marshall, was unofficially called Lumumba-Zapata in honor of its Third World Studies academic emphasis. The Geisel Library was referred to as the “not-so-Central Library”, because the only things it was central to were eucalyptus trees.

Professors would leave lecture notes in the Humanities Library so that students could study from the original, often handwritten, notes. We wore 3D glasses in lecture as Organic Chemistry Professor Murray Goodman showed us slides illustrating examples of stereoisomers. Professor Christopher Wills had us read a package of Scientific American Offprints (freestanding magazine articles) instead of a textbook for his Evolutionary Biology class. Professor Goodman passed away in 2007 and Professor Wills is now emeritus. 3D glasses and article reprints are considered obsolete teaching tools.

And yet, the awe-inspiring view of the ocean remains the same.

I cannot remember the actual number of times during my UCSD career that I went to that spot to sit and think and take in that glorious view. Was it after every exam or only after the particularly difficult ones? Was it when my love life was particularly rich or empty or painful? Was it whenever I needed to remind myself of deeper realities than the busy-ness of everyday life? While it was not the first stop on my UCSD journey, it was the last—stopping there with a fully packed car for a last look before driving back to L.A. following graduation.

Every time I went there, the magic of the place worked. The view restored my sense of perspective, how tiny and insignificant my problems seemed compared to the grandeur of the ocean. I would go to the promontory fragmented, and return whole.
In the many years since graduation, I have shared this viewpoint with family, friends and students. Both my sons had seen that view many times before my younger son decided to attend UCSD.

I am deeply pleased to know that my “place overlooking the ocean” has made it onto “why attend UCSD” lists. I am even more pleased that my son, who shares my love and awe of nature, finds ­inspiration and perspective in the same physical place that gave me so much of both.

Rachel Rubin Green, Revelle 76, appreciates nature, writes, and teaches high school in Los Angeles, Calif.