Sather Gate is a tall bronze gateway that connects Sproul Plaza to the main UC Berkeley campus. The gate is a City of Berkeley Historic Landmark, a California State Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is named after Peder Sather.
Sather Gate is built with granite and concrete columns that support the structural steel framing, which is incased in a bronze cladding. A five-pointed star with the university’s motto, “Fiat Lux” (let there be light), is centered at the top of the gate. The design was made by the American architect John Galen Howard, who also designed numerous other buildings in the UC Berkeley campus. Howard was influenced by his studies in the École des Beaux-Arts, which leads to the gate’s French baroque style. Each column holds four marble panels of nude figures, four men and four women. The men represent the disciplines of law, letters, medicine, and mining while the women represent agriculture, architecture, art, and electricity.
In 1886, Peder Sather died and left a large fortune with his second wife, Jane Krom Sather, giving her a huge responsibility over the money of Jane’s deceased husband. A year after President Benjamin Ide Wheeler was inaugurated, Jane discovered that she was able to pass her money management problems to the University in return for a stable income for the rest of her life, an arrangement known as the Charitable Remainder Trust. In the next decade that followed, Jane funded the construction of Sather Gate as a memorial to her husband. Shortly after Sather Gate was finished, students showed embarrassment to the nude panels. One incident had students decorate the panels with oak leaves. Jane was not pleased with this behavior and wrote a letter of complaint to the secretary of the Regents, resulting in the removal of the panels. Seventy years later in 1977, the panels were discovered under the bleachers of Edward Stadium and at the Amador Marble Company in Oakland, and reattached to the granite columns. In 2007, members of the UC Rally Committee informed Jim Horner UC Berkeley’s campus landscape architect, that Sather Gate had “wobbled disturbingly when they were decorating it for a homecoming weekend event”. Corroded steel was visible in many locations on the gate and the bronze cladding had been separated from the internal steel frames. Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) was responsible for the $1.5 million restoration project involving the assessment and repairs of Sather Gate. Missing cast bronze ornaments were recreated and fastened to the gate, while new scaffolding and welding enclosures were established with a new stainless steel frame.