Family, friends remember Ellen Revelle


By Dave Schwab and Nicole Reino

Staff Writers

Ellen Revelle, member of the Scripps family and widow of UCSD founder Roger Revelle, died yesterday of a massive stroke at Thornton Hospital. She was 98.

Mrs. Revelle was born July 31, 1910, in La Jolla. She was the grand-niece of Ellen Browning Scripps, who helped found Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Mrs. Revelle graduated from Scripps College in June 1931, and she and her husband joined the colony at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where Roger eventually became the director.

Roger and Mrs. Revelle’s four children, Mary Revelle Paci, Anne Revelle Shumway, Carolyn Revelle and William Roger “Bill” Revelle, remember their mother as a person of many and varied interests.

“She listened to opera and classical music and she loved theater and was an active member of a playreading group,” said daughter Mary.

“Her philanthropic efforts sprang from her interests,” said daughter Carolyn.

Along with making major donations to the La Jolla Playhouse, Mrs. Revelle served on the board for the San Diego Symphony.

“Our mother was brought up believing one should be a steward for future generations,” said son William. “She cared about La Jolla and wanted to make La Jolla a better place, and she did that by being involved in various civic organizations.”

Mrs. Revelle, with her daughter, Mary, donated the 1904 Wisteria Cottage to the La Jolla Historical Society last July.

“It’s hard to express the level of sadness everyone at the La Jolla Historical Society is experiencing with Ellen Revelle’s passing,” said John Bolthouse, executive director of La Jolla Historical Society. “This is a truly enormous loss to the entire community. When reflecting on how meaningful Ellen’s contributions to the society and the entire community of La Jolla have been over the years, one can’t help but be inspired by the legacy she’s left us. Ellen Revelle was probably the greatest friend the La Jolla Historical Society ever had and we will cherish her memory for a very long time.”

Along with supporting the Historical Society, arts and other community groups, Anne said her mother was also very active politically right up until the end of her life.

Mrs. Revelle supported President Obama and worked at Democratic headquarters in La Jolla until failing health forced her to work at home.

“She wrote thank you letters to volunteers,” said Anne, adding her mother was a warm and elegant person. “She was definitely a lady,” she said. “She was charming and witty. She was an amazing woman with incredible energy.”


A memorial service will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. May 10 at Sherwood Auditorium at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 700 Prospect St., La Jolla. In lieu of flowers, the Revelle family suggests donations in Mrs. Revelle’s memory to UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography or Scripps College in Claremont, Calif.


The Bishop’s School:

“The Bishop’s School community is saddened at the passing of Ellen Revelle, the great-niece of School Founders Ellen Browning Scripps and Eliza Virginia Scripps. The Revelle and Scripps family have played an important role in the history of The Bishop’s School, especially at this moment in time as the School observes the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1909. The Bishop’s School is proud to count Mrs. Revelle’s daughters among its alumnae.”

Scripps Institution oceanographer Walter Munk:

Munk first met Roger and Ellen Revelle in 1939 and said of both of them:

“They were our best friends. We had enormous respect for both of them. After Roger passed away, she certainly continued and became very much a person in her own right, making her own decisions, whom she would like to help, and being very generous.”

At the end of her long life, Munk said Mrs. Revelle paced herself to remain active.

“She had an interesting policy of doing one thing a day, no more,” he said, “whether that was going to the theater or seeing friends. She apportioned her energies and did not do too much.”

UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox:

“As the ‘First Lady of Scripps Institution of Oceanography,’ Ellen Revelle was a treasured member of the UC San Diego family. Through her lifelong affiliation with our campus, Ellen helped Scripps and our community of scholars and researchers to grow and flourish.

“When Roger became the fifth director of Scripps in 1950, Ellen became the ‘First Lady.’ With the establishment of the UC San Diego campus, Ellen helped to secure housing for new faculty. Most recently, she supported Scripps’ new Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment.

“Ellen and her family also established the Roger Revelle Chair in Environmental Science, the largest endowed chair in Scripps history. We will forever be grateful for Ellen Revelle’s kindness and support, and the impact she had on our campus and community.”

Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Ellen Revelle obituary Web site:



Christopher Ashley, Artistic Director, La Jolla Playhouse

“A Trustee Emerita of La Jolla Playhouse, Ellen Revelle was one of the Theatre’s great friends and supporters. She and her late husband, Roger, both served on the Playhouse board of trustees for many years. Patrons for more than three decades, the Revelles assumed leadership positions for the capital campaign, allowing the Playhouse to expand its facilities, and their philanthropic support ranged from gifts for artist housing to the establishment of a permanent endowment. The Playhouse was proud to name its planned giving program ‘The Revelle Society,’ in recognition of Mrs. Revelle’s passion for encouraging gifts that would ensure the perpetuity of the institution. Ellen Revelle helped found La Jolla Playhouse with her drive, passion for the arts, and her generosity. She was also one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known, and she will be greatly missed by the entire Playhouse family.”


Revelle family Donates Wisteria Cottage to the La Jolla Historical Society

Historical Society celebrates Wisteria Cottage donation

Ellen Revelle answers 10 questions for La Jolla Light

Ellen Revelle, family and friends celebrate Roger Revelle’s 100th birthday