In 1961, Los Angeles urologist, bibliophile, and UCLA School of Medicine mover-and-shaker Dr. Elmer Belt (1893-1980) donated to UCLA his magnificent collection of books and materials about Leonardo da Vinci and the Italian Renaissance. Elmer Belt, Collector of Ideas, a fiftieth anniversary tribute to the collector and his Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana, is on display in the lobby gallery of the Department of Special Collections (Charles E. Young Library, A-level) through January 6.
Elmer Belt, M.D. (1893-1980) was one of a growing number of local boosters who wanted to see UCLA form a medical school, after it moved to the Westwood campus and began granting graduate degrees. He reported meeting with continued resistance from Robert Gordon Sproul, president of the University of California from 1930 to 1958. A sea-change came when Belt treated Governor Earl Warren as a patient. After hearing an impassioned pitch in the Belt Urological Group’s consultation offices, Warren took out his notebook and wrote his own prescription to his doctor:
“He said, ‘Now, there are ten things you have to do.’ So he wrote down one to ten on this sheet of paper, and he wrote after each one of them what he wanted me to do. The first was to select an assemblyman to introduce the [medical school appropriations] bill, ‘one that you can depend on.’ And the last was, ‘Come and stand behind me when I sign this.’” (Quotation from Surgeon and Bibliophile, Esther de Vécsey’s 1974-75 oral history interview with Dr. Belt.)
A black and white version of the official photograph, above, appeared in the Los Angeles Times on 20 February 1946 with the caption: “Gov. Warren signs bill providing $7,000,000 for medical school at Los Angeles campus of University of California. Looking on, from left, Speaker [Charles] Lyon of State Assembly; Dr. Elmer Belt of Los Angeles; James Corley, controller of the University; Assemblyman Phil Davis of Westwood, where campus is located; and State Sen. [Jack] Tunney.”
The newspaper quoted Governor Warren: “I don’t know of any appropriation bill before me that would give me more satisfaction to sign than this one. … I believe we can do as much good for the people of the State in this manner as any way of spending the money.”
Now known as the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the medical school opened its doors to classes in 1951 and is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
<submitted by Russell Johnson, History & Special Collections for the Sciences>