California State University, Sacramento

Charles M. Goethe was one of the "founding fathers" of Sacramento State College (the original name of California State University, Sacramento). From the creation of the university in 1947 until his death in 1966, Goethe remained actively involved in the development of the campus. He served as the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a position he held for many years, and maintained an active involvement with campus affairs. Goethe's institutional affiliation with Sacramento State was strengthened through close association with Guy West (Sacramento State's first president, 1947-1965), Roger Bishton (professor of education, 1955-1980), and other professors.

During his lifetime, Goethe gave generously to Sacramento State. His gifts, estimated at tens of thousands of dollars, supported faculty research on "gifted children," biology, eugenics and population genetics, and provided for student scholarships; he donated subscriptions and books to the Library and funded faculty travel; established the J. Harold Severaid Field Natural History Fund, the Mary Glide Goethe Memorial Fund, and the Guy West Personal Fund, among others. Goethe's will designated Sacramento State as the primary institutional beneficiary. Goethe bequeathed to the university more than $650,000, his residence at 3731 T Street (since renamed The Julia Morgan House), his personal library, and "letters and documents related to biology, eugenics and history."

In recognition of his generosity, Sacramento State bestowed a number of honors on Goethe. In 1955, he was granted an honorary Master of Science degree. In 1961, the university dedicated the C. M. Goethe Arboretum (renamed the University Arboretum in 2005). At the dedication ceremony, Goethe was lauded for his eugenic efforts "to increase the number of sound minds and bodies, and cut the chain of defective humans who crowd our institutions." In 1965 the university participated in organizing a "national recognition day" in celebration of Goethe's 90 th birthday. That year, Sacramento State also announced its intention to name a new $4.7 million science building for Goethe. This final effort to create a lasting marker of Goethe's importance to the university was challenged and ultimately prevented by student and faculty protests alarmed that such an honor would communicate support of Goethe's eugenic vision and would constitute a mockery against science. The arboretum section can be seen here.


An Excerpt from "Remarks on the Occasion of the 84th Birthday of Dr. C. M. Goethe"
by President Guy West, March 1959

"When Sacramento State College was established in 1947, Dr. C. M. Goethe was among the very first of our local citizens to show great interest in the new college and to put his shoulder to the wheel to help develop it. Out of the depth of his rich experience and understanding he was able to help in ways that would never have occurred to the average person…. One would have to undergo the experience of suddenly having thrust upon his shoulder the heavy responsibility of building a new institution of learning in these difficult times to appreciate as fully as I think I do, the help given Sacramento State College by this great friend and benefactor."


Mary Glide Goethe Memorial Fund

In 1948, Charles M. Goethe established the Mary Glide Goethe Memorial Fund at Sacramento State College in honor of his wife. He used the fund to promote campus activities he decided were of interest. The biology department was one of the first recipients to receive the funds. Charles M. Goethe encouraged the biology department to publish a series of books on the natural history of the Sacramento region entitled, the "Natural History Series." The library also benefited from the memorial fund. Goethe used the funds to purchase subscriptions and publications for the library. The purchases included the subject areas of biology and eugenics.




Goethe, C. M. Mother Lode Gold Mining Stories. Sacramento State Publications, Natural History Series, No. 1, September 15, 1950


Thomas F. Wittsche. Check List of the Wild Plants, Sacramento Area. Sacramento State College Publications, Natural History Series No. 3, May 15, 1951

Sacramento State Publication Series, no. 1 and no. 3

C. M. Goethe provided the initial funds to start the publications in the Natural History Series. The series of publications was intended for students and faculty to publish their research on the natural history of the Sacramento area. Excerpts from Goethe's book, What's in a Name (1949), were complied into the Mother Lode Gold Mining Stories and it became the first publication published in the series. Thomas F. Wittsche's Check List of Wild Plants, Sacramento Area became the third publication in the series.



Mary Glide Goethe Memorial Fund zinc plate, no date


Mary Glide Goethe Memorial Fund book plate. From Charles M. Goethe. Geogardening. Sacramento: Keystone Press, 1948

Mary Glide Goethe Memorial Fund zinc plate and Mary Glide Memorial Fund book plate

The Mary Glide Goethe Memorial Fund book plate accompanied the books donated by Charles M. Goethe to the Sacramento State Library.



Letter from Charles M. Goethe to Horace B. Wulff,
February 1, 1957

Letter from Charles M. Goethe to Horace B. Wulff

Charles M. Goethe wrote to Horace B. Wulff, an attorney, with the following request: "Will you kindly file this letter for reference after my death. My library has 3 sections. Many of these are from authors with whom we-2 collaborated in various phases of human betterment work.... It occurred to me the pamphlets and letters might be boxed for any future historical value. The books might be kept together in a separate place in SSC library."



Letter from Charles M. Goethe to Dr. Covey,
November 20, 1958

Letter from Charles M. Goethe to Dr. Covey

Charles M. Goethe wrote to Dr. Covey, the college librarian, that "The book [Evolution, Genetics and Eugenics] seems such a bargain and the supply is limited. I am therefore taking the liberty of sending a check to them for a copy for you." Goethe concludes his letter with his views on eugenics at the bottom of the page, "When will we commence to do as much in eliminating those families continually breeding markedly social inadequates [sic]?"



Letter from Charles M. Goethe to Guy West,
February 21, 1963

Letter from Charles M. Goethe to Guy West

Charles M. Goethe wrote to Guy West informing him that "Probably you should be advised that today I have made a codicil to my will. Thus is transferred the bequest from my native city of Sacramento to Sacramento State College Foundation, the real estate and contents of our home, 3731 Tea Street, also certain funds therewith connected."



Letter from Rodger Bishton to Charles M. Goethe,
December 21, 1963

Letter from Rodger Bishton to Charles M. Goethe

Rodger Bishton, professor in the Department of Education at California State University, Sacramento, was a close friend of Charles M. Goethe. Bishton shared the same faith in eugenics as Goethe. As stated in the letter, "Do not give it another thought- we see eye to eye on the subject of eugenics."



Banned at Sac State, flyer, circa 1965

Reactions to the Naming of the Science Building

In 1965, construction of a new science building on the Sacramento State University campus began. President Guy West and the board of trustees of the college wanted to name the new science building after Charles M. Goethe to further honor Goethe on the campus. However, not everyone in the campus community wanted the new science building to be named after Goethe. Protests from the campus community ensued with both the Academic Senate and Associated Students passing a resolution to change the name of the new building simply to "Science" building. After much pressure from the Academic Senate, the Board of Trustees and President Guy West acquiesced to the name change in 1967. Another name change occurred in the 1990s, when the majority of the names of the buildings on the Sacramento State campus were changed. The Science building became known as Sequoia Hall.

"Banned at Sac State"

"Banned at Sac State" was a flyer created and distributed by the May Second Committee, a radical student organization, at Sacramento State around 1965. The May Second Committee demanded that the administration refrain from bestowing the name "C. M. Goethe" on the new science building, "with the profound belief that Goethe's programs and attitude of Nordic superiority are akin to fascism and are therefore incompatible with scientific or democratic institutions."



The Julia Morgan House, No date


The Julia Morgan House

Charles M. Goethe bequeathed his house on T Street to California State University, Sacramento and stated that it be used for the well-being of children and the elderly. Julia Morgan, distinguished architect and the first woman licensed to practice architecture by the State of California, designed the house in the 1920's. The house was placed on The National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Renovations were completed in 1999 and the Charles M. Goethe house was changed to the Julia Morgan House and Gardens.