Nobel laureate parking spaces move back to University Drive

Former Nobel Laureate-designated parking spaces, pictured on the left in front of Gilman Hall, were painted over and relocated in front of Campbell Hall (pictured right).
Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff
Former Nobel Laureate-designated parking spaces, pictured on the left in front of Gilman Hall, were painted over and relocated in front of Campbell Hall (pictured right).

After the painting over of a number of Nobel laureate parking designations near Gilman Hall, students and faculty need not worry that the campus is abolishing its more than 30-year-old practice of giving Nobel laureates free parking spaces.

Instead, the campus simply moved the spaces close to Campbell Hall, which finished seismic retrofitting earlier this year.

Seamus Wilmot, the director of parking and transportation for the campus, said the parking spaces are a point of pride for the campus as well as a benefit for the faculty.

“It’s pretty impressive — it makes you proud to see them on campus, on University Drive,” Wilmot said. He said the campus had coordinated with the prize winners about the location. Seven spaces are prepared at the Campbell Hall site.

The campus currently offers Nobel Prize winners a free parking space and a reception on the day the award is announced, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

The new parking spaces are located on University Drive in front of Campbell Hall. The previous spaces, located on Oppenheimer Way in front of Gilman Hall, were only temporary replacements for the laureates’ spaces during the approximately three-year period of the demolishing and reconstruction of Campbell Hall.

Since 1997, when a survey suggested that many campus buildings needed seismic improvements, the campus has been demolishing and retrofitting old buildings to prepare them for earthquakes. Campbell Hall was the most recent project to be completed and opened in February.

Oliver Williamson — a 2009 Nobel laureate in economics and a professor of business, economics and law — said the chancellor has been offering parking spaces to laureates since 1980.

Physicist Ernest Lawrence won UC Berkeley’s first Nobel prize in 1939, and the campus later renamed the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory after him. The chancellor offered distinctive awards to each laureate until Czeslaw Milosz — a laureate in literature and the winner of the campus’s first Nobel Prize in a nonscientific field — requested a parking space in 1980, Williamson said. After Milosz, it became the standard practice for the campus to offer free parking spaces to laureates, he said.

Williamson’s reserved parking space is close to his office at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, as he requested.

“Most universities don’t have Nobel laureate parking spaces,” said Williamson, who was a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania from 1965-83 and at Yale University from 1983-88, and has had visiting appointments at Harvard University and Northwestern University.

Contact Yuka Koshino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @YukaKoshino.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • Bob Bell

    “Most universities don’t have Nobel laureate parking spaces,” said Williamson – maybe that’s because most universities don’t have Nobel laureates. Go Bears!