Helen Edison Lecture Series: California historian Kevin Starr to be featured speaker

EVENT INFO: Helen Edison Lecture Series

  • Kevin Starr: “San Diego and the Panama-California Exposition of 1915: The Search for Civic Identity”

  • Tuesday, Dec. 2, 7 pm

  • UC San Diego’s Price Center East Ballroom

  • Free and open to the public

Eminent California historian Kevin Starr will trace the emergence of San Diego’s role in the distinctly Southern California aesthetic of “Mediterranean-ism” as an upcoming presenter in UC San Diego Extension’s Helen Edison Lecture Series.


Kevin Starr: California "is the cutting edge of the American dream – a utopia." Photo: Chapman University

Starr’s talk, titled “San Diego and the Panama-California Exposition of 1915: The Search for Civic Identity,” will be held Tuesday, December 2, at 7 pm, at UC San Diego’s Price Center East Ballroom.

Free and open to the public, the event will serve as a precursor to the upcoming 100-year anniversary of Balboa Park’s Panama California Exposition of 1915, which starts in January.

A distinguished historian, author, journalist, and librarian, Starr will provide his perspective on the century-plus process of how San Diego — dating back to Balboa Park’s founding in 1870 and the subsequent 1915 exposition — has since expressed and actualized its civic ambitions through the intervening decades.

That evolutionary process, says Starr, has led to what he terms San Diego’s “self-creation as the Gibraltar of the Pacific.”

Originally from San Francisco, Starr was educated at Harvard University, where he became enamored with studying California history. His doctoral dissertation was devoted to California’s turn-of-the-century regional culture.

A professor at history at the University of Southern California since 1998, Starr served as the state’s official librarian from 1994 to 2004, when Governor Arnold Schwarzennegger named him State Librarian Emeritus upon his retirement from the position.

Starr’s legacy was shaped by his award-winning book series that chronicled the state’s cultural history as well as his numerous other writings about California, through periods of prosperity and crisis.

"California is everything and nothing at all," Starr once wrote. "It is the cutting edge of the American dream – a utopia. But it could also become the paradigm of the dream lost – a nightmare dystopia.”

Presented by UC San Diego Extension, the Helen Edison Lecture Series is funded by a major gift from the late Helen Edison, a San Diego philanthropist. The ongoing series annually presents free public lectures by distinguished speakers from the arts and humanities.

Additional speakers in the 2014-15 series will be announced.

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