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Posted on July 2, 2008 | 1:34 p.m.

Mary Low Cheadle, 1915-2008


Mary Low Cheadle, first lady of UCSB when her late husband, Vernon Cheadle, was chancellor, died June 30 in Louisville, Ky., after a lengthy illness. For more than 40 years, she devoted her life to UCSB as a volunteer leader and generous campus benefactor.

“Mary and Vernon Cheadle served UC Santa Barbara with such tremendous distinction,” UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said. “Together they led this campus with vision and tireless dedication at an early stage in its development. With the entire campus community, they planted the seeds for the wonderful blossoming of our campus that we all enjoy today. We will never forget Mary’s care for this campus. She touched so many lives with her kindness and wisdom, her inspirational leadership and her visionary generosity.

“In countless ways, the Cheadle family has helped make UC Santa Barbara what it is today — not just a world-class research university, but also a community and a campus family.”

Mary Jenkins Low was born in Westerly, R.I, in 1915. She was a graduate of the Rhode Island College of Education. In 1939, she married Vernon Cheadle, a promising botanist from Harvard. Their marriage lasted 55 years until his death in 1995.

As UCSB’s first family from 1962-77, the Cheadles presided over the campus at a time of unprecedented development and social change. During his tenure as UCSB’s second chancellor, the number of academic disciplines on campus increased from 36 to 100, and student enrollment grew from 4,700 to more than 12,000. In 1979, UCSB’s administration building was named Cheadle Hall to honor Vernon Cheadle’s exceptional leadership during the campus’ formative years.

The Cheadles’ campus legacy also includes the establishment of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation and the Chancellor’s Council to encourage private philanthropic support for academic excellence. Through the years, the Cheadles’ gifts have benefited almost every area of the university.

Of her many campus activities, Mary Cheadle loved Davidson Library. She served on the Friends of the Library for many years and, in 1994, created the Mary Low Cheadle Endowment for Special Collections to support acquisitions. Her UCSB service also included membership on the foundation’s board of trustees, the University Art Museum Council and the Faculty Women’s Club. She was named an honorary alumna of UCSB in 1990.

In addition, Cheadle established numerous gifts in her husband’s memory, including endowments to provide permanent support for the University Art Museum, the Museum of Systematics and Ecology, the vocal music program and student athletes. In 2005, the Vernon and Mary Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration was established.

Eileen Conrad represents UCSB Internal Affairs.

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