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Ellen Revelle, 1910-2009
As a tremendous benefactor of many great institutions, Mrs. Revelle played a major role in the formation of 20th Century Southern California. .

Ellen Revelle dies at 98; Scripps descendant and UC San Diego benefactor
The philanthropist's husband, Roger Revelle, helped spearhead the founding of the university while she worked behind the scenes as its unofficial ambassador and faculty recruiter.
By Valerie J. Nelson
May 12, 2009

Ellen Revelle, a philanthropist and descendant of the Scripps publishing family who helped her oceanographer husband establish UC San Diego, has died. She was 98.

Revelle died Wednesday at UC San Diego's Thornton Hospital in La Jolla after a stroke, the university announced.

Although her husband, Roger Revelle, was considered a major force in persuading the University of California to create the campus in 1960, she was viewed as the university's unofficial ambassador and founded several campus facilities.

A wily recruiter, she relied on charm, grace and the eye-popping views from her La Jolla home to court potential faculty members.

"He was the front man, and she was sort of the warm and supportive person who helped the recruitment process," said William Revelle, one of her four children. "They used to invite candidates for positions to La Jolla to showcase the beautiful ocean views. They called them 'seduction parties.' "

Her husband was also a former director of UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and she was "truly its first lady," said Tony Haymet, director of the marine institution. It was founded in the early 1900s with support from her great-aunt, Ellen Browning Scripps, a pioneering La Jolla resident and philanthropist.

At right, Mrs. Revelle in 2007.

"Colleagues come through looking for the magic recipe" for UC San Diego's success, Haymet said. "I think it's Roger and Ellen who sort of set us on this path" that fosters "the spirit of excitement for exploration and discovery."

For years, Ellen Revelle held a spring tea on the lawn of her home for female graduates of UC San Diego's Revelle College, named for her husband in 1965. Roger Revelle died in 1981 at age 82.

When Scripps marked what would have been her husband's 100th birthday in March, former Vice President Al Gore was given an award for his work on climate change. Roger Revelle did pioneering work on the greenhouse effect, and Gore had grown close to Ellen Revelle.

In a statement, Gore called her "a brilliant woman, passionate supporter of the arts and education" whose "legacy of service to La Jolla and UCSD will long be remembered."

As a member of the first class to graduate from Claremont's Scripps College, in 1931, she remained devoted to the school for women founded in 1926 by her great-aunt. Ellen Revelle served on the school's Board of Trustees for 50 years.

In 1985, the Revelles established a merit scholarship that has "changed the face of Scripps," according to the university. This year, the fund provided half-tuition scholarships to almost 120 students.

To recognize her service, Scripps renamed the campus building often used to house the college's president Revelle House in 2000.

She was born Ellen Virginia Clark on July 31, 1910, in her great-aunt's guesthouse in La Jolla and grew up in Pasadena.

Her businessman father, Rex B. Clark, developed the opulent Lake Norconian Resort in 1929 in what is now Norco. Her mother was the former Grace Scripps, daughter of James E. Scripps, who founded what is now the Detroit News.

At a Valentine's Day dance at Scripps, she met Roger Revelle, who was attending another Claremont campus, Pomona College. Soon after she earned her bachelor's degree in psychology, they married in 1931.

They spent a year in Norway in the mid-1930s and also lived in Cambridge, Mass., and Washington, D.C., before permanently settling in La Jolla in 1976.

She supported a wide variety of arts endeavors and institutions in the San Diego area, including helping to found the La Jolla Playhouse.

In 1993, she married Rollin Eckis, a former Atlantic Richfield Co. executive who had been a colleague of Roger Revelle's. Eckis died at 94 in 1999.

During the summer, Ellen swam daily in the ocean until she was 95. Her family described her as "witty, elegant" and "cutthroat" at dominoes. Devoted to classical music, she attended her last concert the Saturday night before she died.

Hers was "an American life," Haymet said, "the dream lived at full pace, with gusto and accomplishment."

In addition to her son William, of Evanston, Ill., Revelle is survived by three daughters, Anne Shumway of Cambridge, Mass.; Mary Ellen Paci of New York City; and Carolyn Revelle of Sausalito, Calif.; 11 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests donating to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, www.sio.ucsd.edu; Scripps College, www.scrippscollege.edu; or the La Jolla Chamber Music Society, www.ljcms.org.