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Cal Band at Homecoming rally
The Cal Band, cheeleaders, the Rally Committee, cheering students, nostalgic alumni, and Oski, all on Sproul Plaza ... it must be Homecoming! (Steve McConnell photo)

Options abound at Homecoming

Homecoming  Slide show: Homecoming 2004: All hail blue & gold
Homecoming 2004

– UC Berkeley's eighth annual weekend-long Homecoming celebration kicks off this Friday, Oct. 15, providing faculty and staff an opportunity to join alumni, students, their families, and the local community to take in all things Cal. While the highlight for some will undoubtedly be the gridiron match-up between Coach Jeff Tedford's Golden Bears and UCLA's Bruins, others may seek their excitement in locales other than Memorial Stadium.

On Friday and Saturday, a dizzying schedule of 25 seminars by renowned faculty members will explore such topics as the war on terrorism, the state of American media, the dangers of low-calorie diets, and the impact on the environment of alternatives to fossil fuels. Other attractions include a slate of events for parents of current students, plus open houses at Doe Library, the Botanical Garden, Alumni House, and the Berkeley Art Museum.

Guided tours will showcase both campus landmarks and new additions, offering a chance to go backstage at Zellerbach Hall, take in the Hearst Memorial Mining Building's architecture, join a midnight serenade at the base of the Campanile, and examine the exotic flora of the Jepson Herbarium. In addition to Saturday's football game, the weekend's athletic events include women's and men's soccer, women's volleyball and men's water polo.

Families of current students are a big part of the festivities, through Parents Weekend at Homecoming. By visiting their students on campus and taking advantage of the plethora of seminars, tours and other special events, families of Cal students can get a taste of what life at Berkeley is like.

Current students are a big piece of Homecoming again this year. After nearly four decades on the sidelines, hundreds of students and student groups took an active role in Homecoming 2003, celebrating Cal and welcoming alumni and parents back to campus. For 2004, students have again lined up a full slate of events including rallies, competitions, giveaways, entertainment, forums and more to draw the current crop of Bears into the Homecoming spirit.

This year's Homecoming is also one of the first opportunities for the Berkeley community to meet new Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau. On Friday afternoon, he will visit with alumni celebrating 50 or more years since graduation at the Golden Bear Luncheon. In the evening, he will make an appearance at the all-class Blue and Gold Reunion set for the Campanile Esplanade. Members of the classes of '59, '64, '69, '74, '79, '84, '89, '94, and '99 will be special guests for this event, which features a dinner buffet, performances by the Cal Band and other student groups, and a "photo op" with Oski. On Saturday, Chancellor Birgeneau will speak at the Bear Affair, a celebratory BBQ for the entire Cal family just prior to the Homecoming football game, which kicks off at 4 p.m.

And that football game holds more significance than many in the recent past. After dominating top-ranked USC last weekend in nearly every category except the final score, the Golden Bears are well on their way to justifying the buzz (and the national ranking) that surround them and their acclaimed coach. Led by record-setting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a Heisman Trophy contender, Cal has one of the best running attacks in the nation and the Pac-10's leading defense.

But Homecoming is more than pigskin and parties; it's also a chance for Cal grads to give back to alma mater. This year, classes celebrating a reunion in 2004 have raised more than $2.7 million for Cal through their class campaigns. Their gifts support undergraduate scholarships, the library, the Cal Fund and more. The reunion campaigns were marked by three outstanding efforts. The Class of 1984 conducted the most successful campaign ever by a 20-year reunion class, raising more than $480,000. The Class of 1954 raised nearly $850,000 for their 50th reunion. And the Class of 1964, spurred on by a generous matching grant from classmates Bob Haas, Ted Kruttschnitt, Bruce Meyer and Stephen Silberstein, raised more than $610,000. In addition to their class campaigns, alumni celebrating a 2004 reunion have given $3.6 million to other campus causes.

To join in the Homecoming fun, a $15 weekend pass includes admission to faculty seminars, tours, open houses, and most athletic events (tickets to the football game are sold separately). More information is available at homecoming.berkeley.edu or by calling 888-UNIV-CAL (888-864-8225). Weekend passes will be sold at Homecoming Headquarters (located just west of the Campanile) on Friday, Oct. 15, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 16, 8 a.m. to game time.