UCLA has So Much to celebrate from its first 100 years, it’s going to take 12 months to do it.

In its first century, the school has produced alumni ranging from such iconic athletes as Jackie Robinson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to politicians including Ralph Bunche, the first African American to win a Nobel Peace Prize, to entertainment luminaries such as Academy Award winning writer and director Francis Ford Coppola and trailblazing talent such as Gabrielle Union.

UCLA’s centennial celebration, which kicks off May 18 at the school’s alumni day, will spotlight the school’s achievements and achievers past and present, while also keeping an eye on the future and the next hundred years.

Planning it was a monumental challenge, according to Carole Goldberg, chair of the centennial celebration steering committee. Goldberg, who has been part of UCLA’s law faculty since 1972, says she and her committee have been planning the festivities for several years.

“This is an important moment in UCLA’s history and future,” Goldberg says. “The provost appointed a steering committee that had representation from all of the campus’ constituencies, from student affairs, to alumni, to athletics, to several deans and vice chancellors, so that there was widespread opportunity for different constituencies to participate in this planning process.”

After interviewing “nearly a hundred” people from all areas of the campus, asking them what they wanted in a celebration of UCLA’s past, present and future, the committee was able to distill a set of themes and an overarching message for the celebration.

The overall theme is called Lighting the Way, which refers to the school’s motto, Fiat Lux, meaning let there be light. Under that theme are four pillars that will guide the celebration.

The first is Only Here, which addresses the importance of the school’s location in Los Angeles. “Los Angeles is a great global city and we are the only great public research university located in that city, and that has been very important in shaping UCLA,” Goldberg says. “We’ve grown up together; it’s no coincidence that the university was born right around the same time the city started receiving water from the Owens Valley. This pillar is talking about the importance of UCLA’s engagement with the larger L.A. community, as well as the value that has come from the connection between the two.”

Another pillar is Leading the Way, which celebrates the innovations in research and teaching that have emerged at UCLA, encompassing the artistic creations that have come from the School of Theater, Film and Television, and also the very first message sent over the internet, which took place at the school in 1969.

The remaining two pillars are Opportunity for All, which addresses UCLA’s mission as a public institution to “encompass, benefit and be accountable to the rich diversity” of California, and Coming of Age, which underscores how relatively young the school still is, especially in relation to UC Berkeley and the other public universities in Europe against which it measures itself.

In terms of the events coming in the short term, the launch day of May 18 will feature a series of TEDx talks, capped by a spectacular light projection show on the historic Royce Hall, as well as a panel with the university’s three living chancellors.

“There will be three on the panel, chancellor Charles E. Young, chancellor Albert Carnesale, and our current chancellor Gene Block. It will be fascinating to hear them speaking about their experiences and their visions for UCLA,” Goldberg says.

Having already accomplished much in a relatively short period of time, UCLA is ready to look back and celebrate how far it has come.

And if the university’s first 100 years are anything to go by, UCLA is just getting started.

What: UCLA kicks off yearlong centennial celebrations.
When: May 18
Where: UCLA campus
Web: 100.ucla.edu