Biography / Administrative History
Vernon Irvin Cheadle was both an academician and administrator at several colleges and universities across the country, but he is best known for his role as Chancellor of UCSB from 1962 to 1977. Cheadle was born in Salem, South Dakota on February 6, 1910. As a high-school and college student, he competed in track and field events and was also a member of the basketball and football teams. He attended South Dakota State University for one year before transferring to Miami University where he received a B.S. (magna cum laude) in 1932. In 1932 he was accepted to Harvard University and he received an M.S. in 1934 and his Ph.D. in botany in 1936 under the mentorship of Ralph H. Wetmore. After graduating from Harvard, Vernon Cheadle spent six weeks on a collecting trip in Cuba. Many of the specimens he collected are still preserved in his vast plant specimen collection in the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration at UCSB. While on his collecting trip, he was offered a position in the Department of Botany at Rhode Island State College, an appointment he began in 1936. He was Professor and Chair of the department from 1942 to 1952 and also served as Director of the Graduate Division. From 1944 to 1946 he served as a U.S. Navy lieutenant in the Pacific theater.
During 1950-51, Cheadle spent a sabbatical year at the University of California at Davis. He was attracted to Davis because he wished to collaborate with Dr. Katherine Esau on their mutual research interest, vascular tissues in higher plants. He met Dr. Esau, an internationally-known botanist at Harvard while she was there on a Guggenheim Research Fellowship. After returning to Rhode Island, Cheadle was invited back to Davis where he served as Department Chair from 1952 to 1962. He also served as the Acting Vice Chancellor from 1961 to 1962, just prior to his appointment as Chancellor of the Santa Barbara campus. During his tenure as UCSB's second chancellor, the number of academic disciplines on campus increased from 36 to 100, and the 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. Cheadle retired in 1977 and returned to the laboratory full time to resume his life-long studies on the tracheary cells, the water-conducting cells in higher plants. In addition to his strong interests in botany and research, Cheadle continued to be active in university and community affairs. He also continued his interest in sports and began competing in Master's Track and Field meets, setting many national records in the shot-put and discus throw. Cheadle passed away in 1995 at the age of 85.
Mary Low Cheadle was born in Rhode Island in 1915. She graduated from Rhode Island College in Providence, and became a teacher in the Kingston, RI, public school system. She and Vernon married in 1939, while Vernon was on the faculty of Rhode Island State College. After they moved to Santa Barbara in 1962, Mary made deep connections in the community and at the University--she was always a fully engaged partner in Vernon's work. Mary felt a special connection with Davidson Library, and she was a member of the Friends of the Library for many years. She chaired the group from 1988 until 1991. In 1994, she created the Mary Low Cheadle Endowment for Special Collections. Her UCSB service also included membership on the UC Santa Barbara 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. After her husband died, Mary Cheadle established numerous gifts in his memory, including support for the University Art Museum, the vocal music program, student athletes, and the Vernon and Mary Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration, established in 2005.
From the guide to the Vernon and Mary Cheadle papers, 1936-1994, (Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (University of California, Santa Barbara). C. H. Muller Library)