Happy birthday, Cal
Campus gathers to celebrate Berkeley’s founding 134 years ago

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs

20 March 2002 | Honors and processions, along with jitterbugging and Mexican folk dancing, marked the campus’s 134th Charter Day festivities last Friday.

The celebration was kicked off with a parade of faculty decked out in colorful regalia, alumni and staff marching across lower Sproul Plaza and into Zellerbach Hall. Chancellor Berdahl welcomed the audience and special guests who gathered to honor the founding of the University of California on March 23, 1868.

“Through the years, Berkeley has devoted itself to intellectual pursuit and service to the public,” said Berdahl. “Charter Day is a celebration of this mission.”

In his remarks, the Chancellor recalled how the campus pulled together in the aftermath of Sept. 11, with faculty, staff and students offering their expertise and services to those in need.

“We are strong in will,” he said, “never yielding in our efforts to create a world that reflects humanity’s best qualities.”

Perhaps Berkeley’s most important contribution, Berdahl added, is its high-achieving graduates — many of whom have gone on to make a real difference in the world. Three of those alumni were honored during the ceremony.

The California State Library Gold Medal was awarded to English department lecturer and prize-winning author Maxine Hong Kingston, who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Berkeley. The award recognizes contributions to the humanities or science and honors those deserving of being called a “cultural treasure.”

The Haas Public Service Award went to Joanna Lennon, founder and executive director of the East Bay Conservation Corps, which works to engage children in civic activities that improve public education and the community.

The Haas International Award was given to Miguel Angel Rodríguez Echeverría, president of Costa Rica and keynote speaker for Charter Day.

“His life honors Cal’s mission: improving the world and other people’s lives,” Berdahl said as he introduced Rodríguez, an economist who received both his MA and PhD at Berkeley in 1966.

Rodríguez spoke of the affects the Sept. 11 attacks on the world and the need for nations to pull together to fight terrorism.

“Little Costa Rica and the big United States are allies because we are both freedom champions,” he said. ”My time at Berkeley prepared me well to lead and promote freedom.”

Improving conditions for impoverished countries through aggressive use of free trade, he added, is key to attaining world security.

“Open markets are needed to lift developing nations,” said Rodríguez of the proposed “Free Trade Area of the Americas” treaty. “The world has no walls; the answer is to integrate, not isolate.”

In addition to award presentations, the ceremony was peppered with several lively performances.

“The Movement,” a student swing dance group, swirled, swayed, flipped and flopped to rockabilly music, delighting audience members who gasped as the men threw their partners in the air.

“For those of us old enough to remember,” said a smiling Berdahl after the number, “that was called jitterbugging.”

The Mexica Eagle Dancers — some outfitted in giant feather headdresses, others in glittery sequins — tapped out rhythmic steps while drummers pounded the beat. The sound of conch shells and high-pitched yelps punctuated the ceremonial dance.

The UC Men’s Octet closed out the Zellerbach celebration by leading the audience in a rousing, a cappella rendition of “Hail to California.”

As the last refrain of “hail, hail, hail” rang out across the auditorium, fans of the blue and gold erupted in cheers.


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Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.

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