Charles DeLorma Wheelock, Oceanography: San Diego

Professor of Marine Resources, Emeritus

Rear Admiral Charles D. Wheelock, professor emeritus of the University of California and the first director of the University's Institute of Marine Resources, died September 21, 1980, at Silas B. Hays Hospital, Fort Ord, Monterey, California. He was born in Riverside, California, in 1897 and grew up there, entering the U.S. Naval Academy in time to see brief service at sea in World War I as a Midshipman. An expert marksman, he was assigned shortly after graduation to become a member of the team representing the Navy in various competitions in 1921.

Following the Navy's pattern for advanced education he then chose a career in ship design, construction, and repair, studying first at the Post-graduate School in Annapolis and then at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a Master of Science degree in June 1924.

His education was first utilized at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After a two-year tour on the destroyer tender USS Dobbin, he reported in 1936 for duty in the design and construction division of the Bureau of Construction and Repair at the Navy Department in Washington, D.C. (Later this bureau was merged with the Bureau of Engineering and designated the Bureau of Ships.) In this bureau he proved his engineering skill and leadership in ship design before and during World War II. He received the Legion of Merit for his “exceptionally meritorious service” as head of the Design Branch of the Bureau with a citation which reads in part: “He profoundly influenced the design of new naval vessels in service. In the field of warship design, Captain Wheelock made many important contributions to the successful prosecution of the war.”

In mid-1944 he was assigned as production officer at Mare Island Naval Shipyard where he served for two years prior to being promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral. Upon his promotion he returned to Washington as Deputy Chief of the Bureau of Ships and Chief of Naval Construction, serving in that post until 1951. He then served a two-year tour as inspector general for the Bureau of Ships at Treasure Island, California.


While Admiral Wheelock was still on active duty in the Navy, he was asked by Director Roger Revelle to take an early retirement in order to join the staff of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The Navy Department was persuaded to agree to this action, and in 1953 Wheelock was appointed associate director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He worked with Revelle and John Isaacs on the establishment of the Institute of Marine Resources and was appointed its acting director in 1954. In 1958 he was named professor of oceanography and director of IMR.

In making the transition from senior naval officer to senior university leader, he showed both his sensitivity and his firm character. He quite deliberately became an effective user and member of committees and consulted widely on all important matters. Although he was one of the gentlest and sweetest-natured men we have known, he nevertheless could make his colleagues feel somewhat guilty when they had failed to live up to his high standards of conduct.

At Scripps he played a major role in long-range planning, particularly in relation to the physical development of the emerging general campus in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One of his most important accomplishments was his persuasion of the commander of the U.S. Naval Air Station, Miramar to change its flight pattern so as to minimize aircraft noise over the proposed site of the UCSD general campus. He also played a prominent part in UC's acquisition of Camp Matthews, a 500-acre rifle range which is now the Warren campus of UCSD. In the Institute of Marine Resources he fostered initiation of programs in marine mining, seafood technology, and fisheries. Wheelock's first professional appointee was Harold Olcott, to head seafood processing investigations. His support of John Mero in the College of Mining at UC Berkeley led to the first realistic studies of deep-sea manganese nodule collection methods, resulting in papers to which reference is still made.

In the late 50s period of expansion of the University, he played a significant role, chairing a systemwide committee which developed criteria against which potential new campus sites could be evaluated.

Both before and after his official retirement from UC he gave willingly of his professional expertise in naval architecture and marine engineering. He provided substantial input to the design of the first major class of research ships built by the Navy in the 1960s to support oceanographic programs in US academic institutions and the Naval Oceanographic Office. He also provided valuable advice during the design phases of unique research craft such as Flip and Glomar Challenger.

He was a thoughtful person, easily approached either on technical matters or on topics of concern in the operation of the University, and continued to serve it for many years after his retirement. Throughout his career he maintained an active membership in the Society of Naval Architects and

Marine Engineers, as a member and fellow, serving as its vice president. In 1962 he was awarded the Society's Gold Medal for his significant contributions to naval ship design.

Having moved from La Jolla to the Monterey area in 1961, he played an active role in the establishment and early development of the Santa Cruz campus of the University. Chancellor Emeritus McHenry remembers him as one of the founding members of the UCSC Campus Planning Committee serving very usefully for the decade during which most of the executive architects were chosen and the major buildings were built.

In recognition of his service to the University, he was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree at the first commencement ceremonies of the Santa Cruz campus in 1967. The citation commended Admiral Wheelock for his distinguished careers with the Navy and the University, and added: “In his second post-retirement career, he has given generously of his time, experience and wisdom in planning the Santa Cruz campus. We honor him for a long and varied career of service always willingly given and ably performed.” We echo those phrases.

Roger Revelle Fred Noel Spiess