Women Who Built the Berkeley Campus: a Virtual Tour


an essay by Sandra P. Epstein, Ph.D.

Stop 6: Sather Gate and the Campanile

Sather Gate

Sather Gate

Walking down the hill and continuing our stroll south and onto the campus we reach the two most iconic structures on the Berkeley campus—the Sather Gate and the Campanile. These structures, together with endowed professorships in history and in classics as well as book funds in classics and in law, were the gifts of Jane Krom Sather, whose bequests to the University of California totaled over half a million dollars.

Jane Krom SatherJane Krom was born in 1824 in Brooklyn, New York. Following the death of her first husband, Jane in 1882 married Peder Sather, also a widower and 32 years her senior. Peder died four years later leaving Jane with a substantial fortune and no direct heirs.

Peder Sather had emigrated from Norway to New York in 1832 and became associated with the banking house of Francis Drexel, the leading financier at the time. In 1850, lured by opportunities presented by the gold rush, Sather and a colleague, Edward W. Church traveled to San Francisco to set up a branch of the Drexel firm. In 1857, the two bankers established a partnership which became highly successful, making Sather one of the wealthiest men of the time. In recognition of his public prominence, the trustees of the College of California, the predecessor of the University of California, elected Sather to its board.  Upon his death, the firm of Sather and Church was absorbed into the Bank of California

 In 1900 Jane Sather met with Benjamin Ide Wheeler, the new young president of the University. Together they worked out a financial plan whereby Mrs. Sather would turn over the management of her financial affairs to the University in exchange for guaranteed income for the rest of her life. Upon her death the University would receive the remainder of her estate. Within a year, the president was able to announce receipt of a gift of $100,000 from Mrs. Sather for the endowment of two chairs, in Classical Literature and in History, along with establishment of the Jane K. Sather Law and Library Fund. In 1991 it was announced that the Sather funds could now support the endowment of a third chair to be established as the Peder Sather Chair in History.

In 1911 Jane Sather next chose to memorialize her husband with a physical presence and endowed a gift of $40,000 to create an appropriate entrance to the growing university. The Sather Gate and bridge, completed in 1913 of concrete, granite, and bronze, was named for Peder Sather and designed by campus architect John Galen Howard.

The CampanileIn her will, Jane Sather instructed that funds be used for construction of a tower on the campus soon after her death. With nostalgia for her early days in New York she recalled standing on Broadway at the head of Wall Street and being fascinated by the chimes of Old Trinity church. “Think of the melody and music of the bells as it floats through the vales and arches of Berkeley” she wrote in a letter accompanying the gift. [1] The Campanile was designed by John Galen Howard and modeled after the famous tower in St Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy. The 307 foot tower constructed of steel and granite was completed in 1914, and dedicated on Charter Day 1918. The cost of the project was $250,000, of which $200,000 was endowed by the Sather Trust.  Her generosity to the University was then memorialized by naming it the Jane K. Sather Campanile.

Mrs Sather died in 1911, her legacy assured by three endowed chairs, several funds, and two splendid physical structures. President Wheeler was later to note that “cool judgment and practical sense dominated all her choices.”[2]

[1] Jane K. Sather to Victor Henderson, February 1, 1910, Regents’ records. University Archives. As quoted in J.R..K. Kantor, “Cora Jane and Phoebe: Fin-De-Siecle Philanthrophy”, Chronicle of the University of California, Fall, 1998, p.5.

[2] Benjamin Ide Wheeler, December 17, 1911. Ceremony following death of Mrs. Jane K. Sather.