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 Stories for April 29, 1998:

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Berdahl Becomes Eighth Chancellor
Inaugural Ceremony, Shouting Protesters: Vintage Berkeley

by Public Affairs Staff
posted Apr. 29, 1998

In an elaborate, two-hour ceremony steeped in campus tradition – from processions, regalia and speeches to the presence of noisy protesters – Robert M. Berdahl last Friday officially became Berkeley’s eighth chancellor.

The April 24 event began with a lengthy procession of five different groups – alumni, faculty, staff, visiting academic delegates and the official party that included Berdahl – walking single file into a packed Zellerbach Auditorium to music by the University Wind Ensemble.

Dignitaries onstage included U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, the keynote speaker; UC President Richard Atkinson, who invested Berdahl and bestowed upon him the Chancellor’s Medal; UC President Emeritus Clark Kerr, who was awarded the Presidential Medal; and Stanford President Gerhard Casper.

In his 35-minute inaugural address, Berdahl, dressed in festive blue regalia, said he was “honored, grateful and humbled” to be Ber-keley’s chancellor. Focusing on the campus rather than himself, he added that “this occasion is, more than anything, an opportunity to celebrate the founding of this great university in all of its blue and gold glory.”

Friday’s ceremony, covered by more than 30 news organizations, also marked UC’s 130th anniversary.

During the procession and at other times during the event, slides of the campus filled a gigantic screen some eight feet above the stage. Additional music was provided by the UC Chorale Ensembles and by Berdahl’s son-in-law, John Baldwin, a professional violinist.

Just the day before, at a noon concert that was part of the week’s inaugural celebration, Berdahl had said, “Music has always been an important part of our family. Music is central to our culture and to the education of our young people.”

During Berdahl’s inaugural address, “On the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century,” he referenced UC leaders of the past, including Benjamin Ide Wheeler and Robert Gordon Sproul. Wheeler’s inaugural address 99 years ago emphasized the importance of the University Library.

Stating that the Library is as important today as a century ago, Berdahl announced $5.5 million in new permanent money over the next three years to bring the Library to parity with peer institutions. (See insert for the Chancellor’s complete inaugural address.)

Protests, daily fare on campus, also occurred before, during and after the ceremony. While an animal rights activist continued his protest atop the Campanile, AIDS activists outside Zellerbach criticized Shalala for a recent White House decision against needle exchange funding. Three activists with tickets to the ceremony were arrested inside Zellerbach for shouting during her speech and charged with trespassing and disturbing the peace.

Later, Berdahl’s address was interrupted by 15 students protesting the end of affirmative action. They were removed from the auditorium by police and cited for disruption.

But the new chancellor, otherwise warmly received, took the outbursts in stride.

Outside Zellerbach, on Lower Sproul Plaza, several groups picketed about issues including needle exchange, the legalization of marijuana and the end of affirmative action.

Mary Murphy, a representative from Northwestern University, eyed the colorful protests and summed up what many felt – that their presence at a Berkeley inauguration was only natural.

“I think it’s a perfect touch for a Berkeley inauguration,” she said.

The ceremony was flanked by nearly two days’ worth of inaugural activities, including an ice cream social for students, the April 23 noon concert in honor of the Chancellor and Mrs. Berdahl, a faculty/staff reception, a forum on highereducation in the 21st century and a symposium on the future of scholarly communication (see below).

At the April 23 faculty/staff reception in the Faculty Club, the Chancellor and Mrs. Berdahl personally greeted many of the estimated 400 guests.

Graciously accepting an official staff welcome from campus Ombudsperson Ella Wheaton and an official faculty welcome from William Oldham, chair of the Academic Senate, Berdahl responded with words of praise for staff and faculty.

While still at the University of Texas, Austin, Berdahl said he was warned about going to Berkeley by some of his colleagues who asked him, “Why do you want to go there? The place is full of demonstrations and the faculty is so assertive, it’s going to be a rough ride,” he said.

“But this is the strength of Berkeley,” Berdahl told the Faculty Club gathering. “People don’t commit themselves to organizations they don’t own.”

Speaking to the staff, he said, “You are the continuity of this place day in and day out. You make the place work for the students and faculty.”

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