Two new student residence halls dedicated
They honor former Regent Yoritada Wada and Berkeley's '60s-era Dean of Women Katherine Towle
| 12 April 2005
The buildings are part of the nearly completed Underhill Area projects, which will add six residential buildings (including these two) and hundreds of beds to the student housing supply. Completed under budget and a month ahead of schedule, Wada and Towle are now full of student residents, many of whom wandered past during the ceremony in the sunny central courtyard of Unit 2, or paused to watch the event.
The names Wada and Towle (pronounced toll) may not be familiar to newer members of the campus community. As Chancellor Birgeneau acknowledged in his remarks, "It is a Berkeley tradition to name our residence halls not for benefactors but for faculty, administrators, and alumni who have made significant contributions to improving student life at Cal."
Yoritada Wada, who died in 1997, was the first Asian American to serve as a member of the UC Board of Regents. Appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1977, he spent 15 years on the board, where he served as an advocate for divestment of university funds from South Africa. (He was chair of the Regents during 1983-84.) A Berkeley alumnus who also met his wife here, Wada spent his adult life in community service as the director of the Buchanan Street YMCA in San Francisco.
A rousing and moving summation of Wada's life and contributions was delivered by retired UC Associate President Pat Hayashi, also a Berkeley alumnus and a former campus administrator.
"Yori was like a rock," Hayashi said. "As everyone in the community said, Yori did extraordinary things for ordinary people."
"Asian American students who come here to Berkeley will now see a hall named after someone who looks like their parents, looks like their sisters, their brothers, looks like they look. His presence will make us more hopeful and his presence will give us strength."
Wada's son, Richard Wada, said, "My father dedicated his life to social justice, equality, and peace, and he believed that the university played an important part in these issues. I know that he would be deeply moved to have a student residence hall named in his honor."
Marines and deanships
Towle grew up in Berkeley, graduated from Berkeley High School, and came to Cal as an undergraduate in 1916. She later did graduate work in political science at the university and worked for both the UC Press and the Dean of Women's office.
Working outside the university, during much of the 1940s and early 1950s, she served two stints as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, rising to the rank of colonel and becoming the first Director of Women Marines after Congress authorized the acceptance of women into the Armed Services.
Returning to Berkeley in 1953, she was appointed dean of women, then assistant dean of students, and finally, in 1965 and 1966, the first woman to serve as dean of students, then one of the most powerful and high-profile non-academic positions on the campus.
Towle was deeply attached to the ideals of the university and proudly recalled her part in a contentious five-year effort at the end of the 1950s to ensure that all private student-living groups pledged not to discriminate on the basis of race or religion.
She also participated in the planning of the residence hall units, including Unit 2, where her namesake residence hall now stands, appropriately next to the older hall named for one of her friends and mentors, an earlier dean of women, Mary Davidson.
Towle's life, Padilla said, represented "one of the enduring ideas that many of us carry here at Berkeley - that Berkeley becomes part of your gene structure."