Highlander History: The Making of the ‘C’

Why UCR has the biggest 'C' of all the UC campuses

The Big ‘C’ was conceptualized in 1954 and became a reality in 1957. PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES

Welcome to Inside UCR’s newest feature, Highlander History!

Each issue, University Archivist Bergis Jules will present a piece of UCR’s past from the library archives. For more great stories about UCR traditions and history, follow @UCRArchives on Twitter or visit the University Archive on the fourth floor of Rivera Library.  

“Though we may be the smallest campus, we’ll have the biggest ‘C.’ Let’s make the project a success.”

That was the rallying call at UC Riverside when the Big “C” was being planned, in a Highlander story written by Doug Bruce in 1955.

It was 1954 when Riverside residents, UCR students, staff and the administration proposed constructing the Big “C” on a Box Spring Mountains site overlooking campus.

The proposed “C” was originally supposed to measure 56 feet by 80 feet. Following a tradition started at the Berkeley campus in 1905, UCR was to have its own “C” just one year after the university was founded as a way to begin building traditions on campus.

After several delays and supplies shortages, including an attempt by Riverside Junior College students to sabotage the effort by carving a giant R next to it, the Big “C” was completed in 1957, and was welcomed as “permanent evidence of UCR’s industry and school spirit.”

The structure ended up measuring 132 feet by 80 feet; today, it is still the largest “C” on a UC campus.

A story written by Doug Bruce in the 1955 Highlander about the Big 'C.'  courtesy of university archives

A story written by Doug Bruce in the 1955 Highlander about the Big ‘C.’ courtesy of university archives

The building of the “C” was truly a UCR community effort, with the class of 1961 making the trek up the Box Spring Mountains to paint the final product after its completion, thus beginning a yearly tradition at UCR.

A Berkeley alumnus, E.L. Yeager, who owned a construction company in Riverside, donated all the equipment and materials for the building of the “C.” He, along with several other UC alumni residing in Riverside, agreed to help with the project because they realized that “to emphasize the character of the campus as part of the statewide University of California, UCR needed a ‘C.’”

The construction project was well-documented in the Highlander newspaper so please stop by University Archives on the 4th floor of Tomás Rivera Library if you would like to learn more.

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