When Mira Hershey died in 1930 at the age of 86, she left in her will $300,000 to create the first women’s residence on the UCLA campus. Hershey Hall opened in October 1931, housing 137 female students.
Hershey was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and attended Pennsylvania Female College. From her father she inherited a substantial fortune, which she increased considerably through her business skills.
Hershey moved to Los Angeles in 1894 and became a prominent community leader. Among other properties, she owned the Hollywood Hotel, which she developed into a center of Hollywood society.
In 1929, Hershey’s attorney, visiting Regent Edward Dickson, inquired about an architectural plan for the future UCLA campus that was hanging above Dickson’s desk. At this time, work was in progress on the four original campus buildings: Royce Hall; The Library (now Powell Library); the Chemistry and Geology Building (now Haines Hall); and the Physics and Biology Building (now Kaplan Hall). However, the university had not undertaken the construction of dormitories. This was particularly problematic for women, who were not permitted to live independently off campus, as male students could. Hershey’s bequest to UCLA included not only the money for the dormitory, but also a loan fund for needy students.