Remembering Jane Sather, the woman behind the Campanile

Jane Sather

Jane Krom Sather, who died Dec. 11, 1911, left the University of California gifts in the form of endowed professorships, Sather Gate, and Sather Tower. (Used by permission, University Archives, UC Berkeley. UARC PIC 1300:017)

Jane Krom Sather, who died 100 years ago on Dec. 11, 1911, became one of the early and most significant benefactors of the University of California after she settled on UC, in the words of emeritus university archivist Jim Kantor, as “a dependable trustee for her considerable fortune.” 

In 1900 Sather met newly arrived UC President Benjamin Ide Wheeler and negotiated a series of gifts that would ultimately result in a number of endowed chairs — and two splendid physical structures.

The granite-and-bronze Peder Sather Gate, completed in 1909, formed a fitting grand portal to the “Greater University” then under construction.

Two years after Sather died, construction started on a white granite tower to be known, at her request, as the “Jane K. Sather Campanile.” Inspiration, Sather wrote in 1910, came from her earlier years living in New York, when “I used to stand on Broadway at the head of Wall Street and listen to the chimes of Old Trinity (church) as tunes were rung out on them.”

Sather Gate and Sather Tower

The Peder Sather Gate and Jane K. Sather Campanile have become iconic symbols of the UC Berkeley campus. (Steven Finacom photo, UC Berkeley NewsCenter)

Beyond the gate and tower that bear her name, Sather also made enduring academic gifts. A Peder Sather Chair in History was endowed along with a chair in classics. The latter rotates among visiting scholars who also give public lectures in their specialties. These “Sather Professorships” now have their own long and distinguished histories.

Brooklyn-raised Jane Krom Read was widowed around 1880. In 1882 she married Peder Sather, her senior by some 32 years. Born in Norway, he had followed the Gold Rush to San Francisco and made a fortune in banking. Sather’s connection to higher education was as a trustee of the private College of California, the institution that  established the Berkeley campus site and preceded the public University of California.

After Peder died in 1886, Jane lived on a large estate in Oakland for another quarter-century, more than enough time to conceive and arrange for the Berkeley benefactions.

When she died a century ago, she was interred in Oakland’s Mountain View cemetery, where wealthy Oakland businessman Francis Marion “Borax” Smith had made his elaborate mausoleum available to family and various friends, including Sather.