Dr. Samuel Clyde McCulloch, founding dean of the School of Humanities at UC Irvine and professor emeritus of history, died on May 13. He was 96.
An authority on the British Empire, McCulloch earned his Ph.D. in history at UCLA and served as Dean of the College at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) before joining UCI in 1963.
Early on McCulloch recognized the importance of documenting the history of the campus. He became the unofficial campus historian, collecting clippings, memos, records, stories, letters and conducting oral history interviews with key campus figures including Chancellors Daniel Aldrich and Jack Peltason, Nobel Laureates Sherwood Rowland and Frederick Reines, and president of the Irvine Company, Ray Watson.
His full-time career at Irvine spanned twenty-seven years, but he remained active in research for more than a decade after his retirement in 1987. Upon retirement, he became Professor Emeritus of History and was officially designated “UCI Historian” by then-Chancellor Jack Peltason.
Using his extensive collection of historical material and interviews with more than 100 prominent members of the UCI campus, in 1996 he published Instant University, a history of the UCI campus from 1957 to 1993.
Instant University was the first published comprehensive history of UC Irvine. It provided insight into the acquisition of the campus site from the Irvine Company, the struggles with the state legislature over incorporation of the medical school and the difficulties of dealing with a declining economy. McCulloch tells UCI’s story not only as a historian, but as a participant and observer of these events.
Sam McCulloch’s influence can be felt even today. As dean, he laid the foundation for humanities by recruiting and retaining world-class faculty. He chaired the Academic Senate from 1978 to 1980 and served as president of the Friends of the Library. Each year the School of Humanities presents the Samuel C. and Sara Ellen McCulloch Undergraduate Award to an outstanding history undergraduate chosen for their academic performance.
In 2009, McCulloch donated his papers to UCI Special Collections and Archives. These include correspondence, research notes, clippings, and bibliographies. Numerous interviews from the Samuel McCulloch Oral Histories are available at the Online Archive of UCI History.
He was a constant fixture at campus events well into his nineties, keeping tabs on UCI’s progress and forming bonds of friendship with subsequent Humanities deans. He and his wife Sally were regulars at the University Club, where the library bears his name.
He served as moderator of the University Club Forum, a weekly luncheon and lecture series featuring the latest research from UCI faculty, from 1981 to 2008.
“Dad loved UCI and all the people there,” says son, David McCulloch. “He put his heart and soul into the University. Going to Basketball was a must since 1965. Performances at the Barclay and most of all, knowing his students. He was a teacher first. They will tell you that.”
McCulloch is survived by his wife, Sara Ellen (Sally) McCulloch; children Ellen, David and Malcolm; five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 25th at 1:00p.m. at Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Parish Church, 3233 Pacific View Drive, Corona del Mar, CA 92625. If you would like to attend the service, please RSVP to David McCulloch at email@example.com or (949) 283-9199.