Looming at the top of a mural in the grand stairwell of The City Club of San Francisco is a depiction of Calafia, the Spirit of California. The model for Calafia was tennis champion Helen Wills Moody (1905-1998), after whom our institute is named. The mural, called Allegory of California, was painted in 1931 by famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera, at the entrance to what was then the Pacific Stock Exchange Lunch Club.
Moody was an international celebrity when she posed for the mural, which was the first fresco Rivera painted in the US. She won gold medals in tennis at the 1924 Olympics when she was a student at UC Berkeley. Moody graduated from Cal in 1927 with a degree in fine arts. She then continued her tennis career, and also became a painter and writer.
In 1995, Moody gave a gift that established an endowment for the Berkeley Neuroscience PhD Program and helped provide initial funding for our institute. In 2000, it was renamed the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute in honor of her generous gift.