UCSF Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Millberry Union

"Culminating a fascinating history of 32 years, the long-awaited Guy S. Millberry Union opened on September 19, 1958. Upon completion of all construction, this unique combined structure will represent an approximate capital investment of $5,250,000 and an area over 410,000 square feet of space." And so began the introduction of the first brochure touting the Millberry Union on the UCSF Parnassus campus as "one of the most outstanding and complete college unions in the entire West." "Though still in its infancy, the Millberry Union is striving to become far more than a physical facility," the brochure read. "Through its broad program of social, cultural and recreational activities it is hoped that this new 'laboratory' can make a significant contribution to the total educational program of the medical center." Fifty years later, UCSF is hosting special events to honor the legacy and history of the Millberry Union, which has served as the hub of campus life on Parnassus Avenue for thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni, neighbors and guests. These events are planned from May to October, including the debut of a farmer's market on Wednesday, May 14 in the breezeway near the Ambulatory Care Center, and a Millberry Union Scavenger Hunt offering an Apple iPod Nano as a grand prize. For the complete schedule of events, please visit the Campus Life Services' Millberry Union anniversary celebration website. Revolutionary Concept What makes the Millberry Union story significant is that the concept for a social center came about back in the 1920s, when dental students realized that they didn't really have a campus, just a group of buildings. In 1921, the Associated Dental Students declared a series of "labor days," and using their own money, built a simple shack that they used as a cafeteria. In fact, the initial funds for the Millberry Union were donated by the dental students from the profits of this makeshift eatery, along with the Dental Supply Store, "the Coop," which opened in 1925. "Millberry was dear to the School of Dentistry," recalls Sol "Bud" Silverman, DDS, who came to UCSF as a dental student in 1950 and became a full-time member of the faculty in 1954. "At that time, everyone knew each other." The Millberry Union, named in honor of Guy S. Millberry, DDS, dean of the College of Dentistry from 1914 to 1939, was born from the idea that the union would serve as a "laboratory of citizenship, training students in social responsibility and for leadership in our democracy." Initially, the Millberry Union housed a men's dormitory for "41 young men" and a women's dormitory "for 112 girls," a music room "with the latest in stereophonic systems and a superb grand piano," a cafeteria, a conference room, snack bar and dining room, a swimming pool, an exercise room, game room, book and supply store, the Faculty Club, a lounge, a barber shop, a beauty shop, and the Central Desk, dubbed as the "nerve center of the union."
Photo of black tie dinner

The campus community gathered for a black-tie dinner in the gymnasium to dedicate the Millberry Union on Oct. 30, 1958.

"From the initial investment grew a half century of institutional commitment to a UCSF community, supporting the needs of its members and strengthening the character of the institution," says Al Minvielle, who began his career at UCSF as a lifeguard in the late 1960s. Minvielle, who retired last year as the director of Millberry Programs and Services, has seen the evolution of the Millberry Union firsthand. "When the idea of Millberry was conceived, it was revolutionary among professional schools nationwide," he says. "At that time, there was nothing like it in existence. The creators of [the union] understood that community and humanity were linked, and critical to developing quality health care professionals. People came from all over to see Millberry Union - it was one of the first unions at a grad school." Millberry Union was just two years old when John Hutchinson came to the UCSF campus in 1960 to study at the Cardiovascular Research Institute. He worked in the cardiology until he retired in 2000. "When I came here, here was this beautiful facility," Hutchinson, MD, says. "I got to know a lot of folks; I was very involved in the 1970s. Al Kerr was a wonderful pal of mine." Kerr came to UCSF in the early 1960s as a recreation supervisor and headed the UCSF intramural sports program for more than 30 years before retiring in 1992. Kerr became a UCSF icon as the ambassador for fun and friendliness. In 2004, the University named the basketball court in Millberry Union's Steninger Gym after Kerr. See that story here. Thanks for the Memories Talking to those who have used the programs and services provided by Millberry Union over the years, it's clear that the building, and what it stands for, holds some fond memories.
Photo of basketball team

UCSF had a sports team during the late 1950s as photographed here showing the UCSF Medical Center basketball team with Robert Albo, a 1959 graduate of the UCSF School of Medicine, at far right.

"Everyone appreciated this union tremendously," says Robert Albo, MD, who came to UCSF as a medical student in 1956, and went on to be a clinical professor in the Department of Surgery. "When you're a student here, your duties are so demanding that you have very little free time, and it says to me that the University is interested in making your free time as enjoyable and wonderful for your life, to make you [the most] well-rounded individual that you can possibly be," says Albo. "It did that for all of us." For Bill Wara and Diane Wara, who came to UCSF in 1970 to start their residencies, the Millberry Union was one of their first homes, which they shared with their 3-week old daughter. With the help of Melvin Grumbach, MD, who served as chair of the Department of Pediatrics from 1966 to 1986, the couple was provided with one of the dorm rooms so that Diane, a pediatric resident, could spend time with their daughter in between shifts. "It was an innovative use of Millberry," says Diane Wara, division chief of Pediatric Immunology/Rheumatology and program director for the Pediatric Clinical Research Center at the UCSF School of Medicine. "I'm not certain that without the support that I received from my chair and the availability of this arrangement with Millberry I would be doing what I'm doing today. I'm not certain I would have finished five years of training here and would have stuck it out as a full time academician, which I have done and am. So I'm really very grateful." The Waras both recall the importance of the Millberry Union as a place where the entire campus gathered. "It tells me that UCSF really is interested in us as human beings; not solely interested in our coming in at the crack of dawn and leaving after dark to conduct our research, and provide patient care and the other work that we all do here," she says. Today, the Waras both benefit from working out at the Fitness & Recreation Center. "The impact that a first-rate personal trainer has had on our lives is profound," she says. Series of Events The celebration of the Millberry Union will conclude in October with an anniversary party at the conference center, featuring complimentary cupcakes, sparkling punch, live music and speeches by Steve Barclay, senior vice chancellor, and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Eugene Washington, MD. A Millberry Union historical display will be featured, as well, highlighting photos from the last 50 years.
Photo of parade

Faculty, staff and students gather to watch a celebration atop the garage at Millberry Union, the center of social activity on Parnassus for 50 years.

"The programs and services at Millberry Union have played such an integral part in the daily lives of the campus for the past 50 years," says Liane Wong, event coordinator for the Millberry Union anniversary celebration. "It's really a 'one-stop shop' that fulfills the needs of students, faculty, and staff - from the fitness center to the student housing office, parking garage, the University Store, or lunch at one of the restaurants-it all takes place in Millberry Union." To view the entire Millberry Union 50th Anniversary website, which includes a calendar of events, photo archive, memorabilia and video interview clips, go here.