What’s in a name? Philanthropic histories bridge buildings across the Bay

Walking through the University of California, Berkeley campus, a Stanford student may be struck by déjà vu. Some of the building names on the two campuses are identical — but does it boil down to mere coincidence? Looking closely, the stories behind these building names are a reminder of the decades-long history that bonds us to our neighbors (and rivals) across the Bay.

1. Li Ka Shing

Each school has its own medically-focused Li Ka Shing building, named after the business magnate and philanthropist Li Ka-shing.

Berkeley named the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences after Li donated $40 million for its construction in 2005. The 200,000-square foot building is currently home to research that investigates the root causes of diseases such as Alzheimers, cancer and tuberculosis. Li was awarded the Berkeley Medal for his financial contribution. 

Stanford’s five-story Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge is the pedagogic heart of the School of Medicine. In use since 2010, the $90.2 million building houses classrooms, lecture halls and an immersive learning center with simulated examination and operating rooms. Li, whose eldest son studied at Stanford, has donated more than $37 million to the School of Medicine for a variety of projects through his Li Ka Shing Foundation charity.

2. Haas

Stanford students familiar with the Haas Center for Public Service may be surprised to find not one, but two Haas buildings on Berkeley’s campus.

The Bears’ business school and arena are named for a father and son pair. Berkeley’s Walter A. Haas School of Business is named in honor of the 1910 graduate and former president of Levi Strauss & Co. The school’s Walter A. Haas Jr. Pavilion, home to the school’s basketball, volleyball and gymnastics teams since 1999, was named for his second son. A graduate of the Berkeley class of 1937, Haas Jr. succeeded his father as president of Levi Strauss & Co. He and his wife Evelyn made a $11 million lead donation for the sports pavilion. 

Stanford’s Haas Center, formerly the Stanford Public Service Center, was renamed as such in 1989 after the Haas family made a $5 million donation to its endowment. 

These contributions have extended into recent years. Haas Sr.’s first son and daughter-in-law Peter and Miriam “Mimi” Haas contributed to the endowment for the Peter E. Haas Faculty Directorship in 2004, a position currently held by Juliet Brodie. Peter E. Haas graduated from Berkeley and served on Stanford’s Board of Trustees.

3. Bechtel

Each campus also has a building named for Stephen Bechtel.

Berkeley’s Bechtel Engineering Center, built in 1980, was named for the former president of the Bechtel Corporation. Bechtel attended Berkeley for a year before taking over the engineering and construction company, which was founded in San Francisco in the late 1800s by his father. The center houses Berkeley’s Engineering Library and an auditorium.

Stanford’s Bechtel International Center was similarly named for Bechtel, whose 1963 donation helped fund the remodeling of the former Zeta Psi fraternity house. “From experience overseas I have found that friendship and mutual understanding flourish in just such surroundings as the new center will provide,” Bechtel wrote.

Bechtel’s son, Stephen Bechtel Jr., received his MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in 1948 and succeeded his father as president of the Bechtel Corporation. 

4. Stern

Both rival schools host a residential Stern Hall. Each is named for a different woman of the Stern family, which owns Levi Strauss & Co. 

Stanford’s Stern Hall is named for Lucie Stern, nicknamed “Aunt Lucie” for her decades of friendship and charity to Stanford students. Stern’s estate donated $400,000 toward the construction of the dorm in 1947, a year after her death, with an additional $200,000 gifted in 1948. Stern gained her fortune after marrying one of the heirs to the Levi Strauss & Co., and “the wealthy Mrs. Louis Stern decided to use her fortune in making others happy” upon the death of her husband, according to a 1952 Daily article. 

Alongside providing student loan funds, scholarships and $600,000 in donations to build the residence hall bearing her name, Stern hosted weekly dinners at her home and provided a “gift closet” of free clothing. In 1941, Stern was named an Honorary Stanford Fellow and designated a lifetime member of the student body by the ASSU.

Berkeley’s Stern Hall is an all-female dorm named for Rosalie Stern, who funded its construction in 1942. Stern was involved in many public service endeavors. She opened up her house to the Red Cross after the 1906 earthquake and fires, and provided aid throughout World War I. Stern’s husband, Sigmund Stern, was the son of Levi Strauss & Co. co-founder Dan Stern.


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