by Amy Corral
A student who earned 18 A+'s with help from what she called a "30,000-member nerd support group" has been awarded the 1995 University Medal, the campus's top academic honor.
Emily Ruth Bender will accept the prize from Chancellor Tien during this year's Commencement Convocation on May 9 in Zellerbach Auditorium at 4 p.m. U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich will be the keynote speaker for the event.
The University Medal is awarded annually to the "most distinguished graduating senior."
Bender is a linguistics major who, at 21, has already distinguished herself as a scholar on three continents. She spent an academic year in France during high school and her junior year at college studying at Tohoku National University in Japan. She is now concentrating on mastering Mandarin.
Throughout her years at Berkeley, Bender tutored fellow students in foreign languages, took part in research projects and even fine-tuned her Japanese calligraphy skills.
Yet Bender is graduating with a perfect 4.0 average, and her transcript is sprinkled with an impressive 18 A+'s.
"The students here are mind-bogglingly intelligent," she said. "I found myself thinking, 'Wow, this is like having a 30,000-member nerd support group.'"
If support from her brainy fellow students has helped her succeed, so has her experience of life abroad.
"I just can't express enough how much the Education Abroad Program enhanced my time at Berkeley," she said. "To find out that things can be done an entirely different way (in a foreign country) shows you that things can really be done any way."
After accepting her medal and diploma, Bender will pursue a graduate degree in linguistics at Stanford University. She plans to become a professor of linguistics.
But first, she'll take her first real vacation since she arrived here. She's going to France, and this time, the books are staying home.