Pen and ink illustration of a time capsule exploding open, and a swirl of objects flies around: a cow, London bus, penny farthing bicycle, dachshund, squirrel, turkey, square tomato, water tower, palm tree, picnic blanket and hippie-style flowers.

Looking Back at 40 Years

by | Apr 13, 2023 | Culture, Features, On Campus, Spring/Summer 2023

Illustrations by Ana Panaligan

Originally funded for only five issues — enough to commemorate the campus’s 75th anniversary — UC Davis Magazine was immediately popular with readers for the news of the day and nostalgic looks back at university milestones. For our 40th anniversary, We delved into our archives to learn more about our own history.

Connecting the UC Davis Community

1983 was another time, entirely. But some things remain the same, including the desire to connect members of our community and elicit pride in the great work of UC Davis. To mark 40 years of publication, the current staff of UC Davis Magazine decided to look back at previous issues and share a little of what we’ve learned along the way. Here are 40 of them.

Illustration of the first UC Davis Magazine cover from 1983

We’ve come a long way.

The first issue of UC Davis Magazine, dated summer 1983, was the product of four years of planning and research. Originally funded for only five issues, the new publication aimed to commemorate UC Davis’ 75th anniversary, and the yearlong celebration that was planned.

But within that first issue, the editors and writers put together a lot more. In addition to the first of a five-part feature on the Diamond Jubilee celebration, the premiere pages offered up research highlights, campus news, sports stories, reports on alumni and a look at the student body at the time.

As Dennis J. Gould, then-president of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, wrote in that issue, “It is our intention for UC Davis Magazine to embody and reflect the image of UC Davis as one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher education.” This is still part of the mission of this publication today.

We’ve made a lot of changes.

Over the years, UC Davis Magazine evolved.

For a few years, our office actually produced two different versions throughout the year: newspaper “tabloids” and glossy “feature” editions. In 1990, these were merged into the longer magazine you see today. A new look debuted in spring 1991.

A reader survey guided the redesign. Readers said the magazine was “trying too hard,” “too snooty” and “too scholarly.” Overall, UC Davis Magazine has always endeavored to share the news that is important to the campus community.

Class Notes also debuted in spring 1991, but as you will notice in this issue, we no longer include them, opting to use our real estate for more articles.

In 2003, we commemorated the magazine’s 20th anniversary with a collage of covers on the cover of the summer issue, and an editor’s note by Teri Bachman said, in part, “some important things have remained the same, including our mission to keep you informed about the Davis campus, to keep you connected and to keep you entertained.”

We redesigned again in 2015. I arrived at the same time, and we continue to focus our efforts on sharing alumni, research and institutional news in every issue. A new website debuted in 2018, and we also now write stories year-round with only a portion going in print. Find these at our website,

Our online archives go back as far as 1996 and can be found at

Our readers are very engaged.

As the readership decreased over the years, those who followed the magazine’s journey remained active and committed to the UC Davis community. In 2019, we launched a subscription model, asking readers to pay to continue to read.

We don’t take that lightly and continue to strive for excellence with every issue. We hope you enjoy this look back at our history and some of the unique people and stories that have made each issue worthy of reading.

Pen and ink illustration of an open laptop sitting on a table, with breakfast and a mug of tea. The computer has a Zoom session going.

We saw it coming

We predicted remote work.

“All the polls have shown that Americans do not like dense cities and, if given their choice, prefer to work in the suburbs or in a small town. In the future, this may be made possible by computer technology, which would allow the decentralization of most economic activity. We could then have relatively isolated individuals or families living on fairly large pieces of land, communicating with the employment world via computer,” said Lyn H. Lofland, then-professor of sociology. (Winter 1985-86)

We saw the potential risk of synthetic drugs.

Gary L. Henderson, then-associate professor of pharmacology in the UC Davis School of Medicine, predicted that several new drugs just beginning to be abused might make headlines in the years to come. Henderson was one of the first to recognize that derivatives of fentanyl were being illegally produced and abused as a heroin substitute. He called them “designer drugs” and the term quickly caught on. His on-campus laboratory was one of the few in the U.S. that could detect fentanyl in body fluids. In 1983-84, the drug was killing a user a week. “The use of these synthetic drugs will probably spread throughout the world,” Henderson predicted. (Jan-Feb 1989)

 We took early note of wildfire dangers.

“Many of our national parks have been so protected from fire that we now find well over 100 years of fuel buildup, instead of the limited growth that would be more expected under more natural conditions,” said Kerry Dawson, then-professor of environmental design and director of the Arboretum. (May-June 1989)

We saw the need for a faculty with more women and people of color.

“I see the next decade not as a problem but as an opportunity — a significant opportunity to reshape the composition of the faculty so that it mirrors society,” said Carol A. Cartwright, then-vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. “The faces of excellence do not look like they did in the past.” (Nov-Dec 1989)

We helped usher in reality television.

MTV came to UC Davis in 2002 with Sorority Life, an original series that followed several undergrads during the pledge process. Two more seasons ensued at other schools, as well as a spinoff, Fraternity Life. (Summer 2002)

We’ve always walked down memory lane.

Every generation has a curiosity for what came before it, and those of us who lived it like to look back. Nostalgia has been an important part of the pages of UC Davis Magazine, which has chronicled the history of the Coffee House, Picnic Day and much more. As a result, the magazine has documented much of the early history that can be forgotten as the next generation moves in. Coffee House (Winter 1994) Picnic Day (Spring 2014)

pen and ink illustration of various clothing items done to look like paper doll clothes

Reporting the timely stories

We reported on fashion.

Blue jeans, corduroys, flannel shirts and Doc Martens were the chosen favorites among students, according to a photo feature in 1994. Though we don’t do much fashion reporting these days, we can say that with ’90s fashion seeing a big revival now, the campus fashion today doesn’t look much different. (Winter 1994)

We saw technology change rapidly.

From professors allowing students to submit papers via the computer, to students using the phone to register for classes, UC Davis Magazine has documented changing technology that has affected our community and changed how we do business.

UC Davis helped save Mono Lake.

Students, faculty and alumni played prominent roles in the 20-year Mono Lake story. Water from the lake had been diverted to Los Angeles, which in turn created extensive environmental damage and threatened to turn the lake dry. Starting in the ’70s, student researchers identified key issues at the heart of the problem. They helped form the Mono Lake Committee, which got several national environmental groups interested in the cause. (Winter 1994)

Aggies are ideas people

A vaccine for Lyme disease.

We reported a new defense against Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. A vaccine, invented by Stephen Barthold ’67, D.V.M. ’69, then-director of the UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine, and colleagues, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December 1999, and sold under the brand name Lymerix. The manufacturer discontinued the drug in 2002, citing insufficient consumer demand. (Fall 1999)

A test for “killer” bees.

A genetic test developed at UC Davis allowed scientists to distinguish Africanized “killer” bees from those naturally present in California and to track their progress across California. Entomologist Robert Page, M.S. ’77, Ph.D. ’80, and colleagues developed a DNA fingerprinting test to distinguish “European” or “Egyptian” varieties from the Africanized bees and to look at the spread of the African genotypes into California. Tracking the spread of Africanized wild bees is important for the beekeeping industry. “These are not fun bees,” Page said. (Winter 2001)

Tracking Pet health.

Holly Ganz, Ph.D. ’04, was working in a lab at UC Davis in 2015 when she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to study the microbiology of cats. Since then, her company, Animal Biome, has expanded to offer a full assortment of dog and cat products aimed at a healthy gut. (Fall/Winter 2018–19)

pen and ink illustration of Chancellor Vanderhoef gesturing toward the buildings he imagined — the Manetti Shrem museum, the Mondavi Center and the Pitzer Center.

We’ve covered the campus’s expansion.

The campus footprint has changed a lot over the past 40 years. We’ve documented the growth, which has included top-tier arts venues like the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, proposed back in 1996 by then-Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef, along with a future museum (now the Manetti Shrem Museum) and a recital hall (now the Ann E. Pitzer Center). (Spring 1996)

Some buildings have already become iconic, such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Building — dubbed the “Death Star” for its mazelike design, announced in fall 1992, and on the cover of the spring 1995 issue. Housing has been a vital addition over the years, and the new development at UC Davis West Village also made our cover in winter 2012. See page 14 for the latest coverage of places on campus.

More from our anniversary feature