Joseph Gier Memorial
The EECS department is spearheading an effort to openly recognize the profound contributions of Prof. Joseph Thomas Gier to the University of California. We are erecting a bronze statue by artist Dana King in front of the Blum Center to share Gier’s forgotten legacy with the campus community and honor him as a permanent landmark in Berkeley’s history and culture. We hope to raise $150K to fund this project.
Why was Joseph Gier so important?
Joseph T. Gier (1910-1961) was raised in Oakland by a single mother who supported her family as a domestic servant. Against the odds, he came to Berkeley in 1930, became the president of his fraternity, and was one of the first Black students on campus to earn a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (’33). Unlike most of his white peers, he was not able to find a job in his chosen profession, so he returned to campus and worked as a lab assistant while completing an M.S. in Engineering (’40). He stayed on at the lab conducting experiments into the properties of heat and light, and was hired as a part-time lecturer by the EE department in 1944. He was said to be an extraordinary teacher who was able to convey “the physical significance in mathematical abstractions” with dexterity and grace to a classroom of white students during a period of deep national segregation. Gier was a role model to a generation of students and colleagues in the years preceding the Civil Rights Movement, when African Americans were rarely permitted to hold prominent positions of power or authority. He co-invented and patented several instruments used to measure thermal and luminous radiation, became a world authority in his field, and was a very early proponent of solar energy as a renewable resource. His devices were used in the earliest days of aerospace exploration to harness solar energy as well to develop materials that could withstand the rigors of space. He became the first tenured Black professor in the UC system when he was hired as an Associate Professor of EE in 1952. He transferred to UCLA to pursue his research into solar energy shortly before his premature death in 1961. Joseph Gier was a local Cal hero at the forefront of science and engineering who quietly nurtured and influenced students and colleagues of all races for decades. He seems to have disappeared from the public Berkeley record around 2003, possibly because he arrived here too early for the significance of his achievements to be fully recognized.
Please join us in rectifying this historical oversight by contributing to the Joseph Gier Memorial Fund!
How to Donate
Visit give.berkeley.edu/Gier to make a donation online!
- Make out a check:
- to the “UC Berkeley Foundation”
- put “EECS Gier Project” in the memo field
- and mail it to: ATTN: EECS Gier Project
EECS External Relations
231 Cory Hall MC #1770
Berkeley, CA 94720
- Set up a bank transfer, ACH, or Wire Transfer: write “EECS Gier Project” in the comments field
- Make an internal donation using discretionary funds: contact Josephine Williamson by sending mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Anything else: we’re happy to speak with you about the project. Email us at email@example.com
A community is defined by the heroes it chooses to celebrate. The EECS department wishes to:
- introduce Joseph Gier to the wider campus community so that he can take his place alongside David Blackwell as a key player in the history and culture of Berkeley
- enable Gier to shine as a beacon for two historically underrepresented groups: African Americans and those born into families of low socioeconomic status who must overcome hardships to attend Berkeley
- acknowledge that Gier’s achievements as a Black alumnus and professor at Berkeley in the 1930s-1950s took great courage, character, and commitment
- recognize that Gier is not just an icon for the Berkeley campus and the UC system, but for STEM education as well
|Conception & sculpture
|Landscaping & installation
|Safety margin & dedication
Your donation will fund the creation of a sculpture by artist Dana King to be placed at the entrance of Blum Hall.
- classical in style, cast in bronze
- a slightly larger-than-life bust of Joseph Gier (head & shoulders) will “float” atop a rectangular obelisk
- the obelisk will be black to reflect the primary characteristic of one of Gier’s most influential inventions, the Black Body Reflectometer
- the sides and back of the obelisk will be etched with designs inspired by Gier’s scientific discoveries and equations
- the front of the obelisk will hold an inscription
- the installation will be engineered to welcome all audiences including those with special needs
- the entire sculpture will stand roughly 6′ high and weigh somewhere between 400-500 lbs
- like Gier, Dana is based locally in Oakland
- shares our opinion that it is important to have public monuments of African Americans which are created from a Black aesthetic point of view
- is known for her figurative sculptures of often underappreciated African American heroes
- is specifically focused on memorializing social pioneers whose courage and commitment to excellence helped create modern society
- is drawn to sculpting because it provides an opportunity to shape culturally significant memories of Black forebears and helps determine how these icons are publicly held and remembered
- creates classical bronze monuments that would be instantly recognizable to Gier and his peers as a sign of great respect, an honor which was almost exclusively reserved for white dignitaries during Gier’s lifetime
Memorial Dedication Ceremony
The Joseph Thomas Gier Memorial Sculpture Dedication Ceremony was held on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, at 2 pm, in the Blum Hall Courtyard. Speakers: Dean of Engineering Tsu-Jae King Liu, Dean of CDSS Jennifer Chayes, EECS Chair Claire Tomlin, project coordinator Magdalene Crowley, President of BGESS Christian White, President of BESSA Bridget Agyare, and sculptor Dana King.