UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Robert J. Birgeneau to be inaugurated as UC Berkeley chancellor this week

– Amid colorful processions, performances, and engaging discussions about new frontiers of education and knowledge, Robert J. Birgeneau will be inaugurated this week as the ninth chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.

The main event, the inaugural ceremony, will take place at 2 p.m. Friday (April, 15) in Zellerbach Hall and include an address by Birgeneau about his goals as chancellor.

Related inaugural events, including lectures and receptions, will run Thursday through Saturday, April 14 - 16.

Birgeneau, 63, became chancellor of UC Berkeley in September 2004. Chancellors are traditionally inaugurated, however, around Charter Day, the anniversary of the founding of the University of California. This year marks the university's 137th anniversary.

Inauguration activities coincide this year with Cal Day, the annual campus open house that will take place Saturday and draw more than 35,000 people to enjoy lectures, music, sporting events and other attractions.

The last UC Berkeley inauguration was in April 1998, for Robert M. Berdahl. Chang-Lin Tien was inaugurated in 1991.

In his inaugural address on Friday, Birgeneau will unveil the themes that will guide his tenure - leadership, connection and inclusion.

On the importance of inclusion, for example, Birgeneau will stress the need to attract a more ethnically diverse student body, lessen the financial burden of low-income students who come to UC Berkeley, and ensure social, cultural and religious diversity on the campus.

At his request, Birgeneau's inaugural events will include special discussions by leading thinkers from UC Berkeley and elsewhere about emerging areas of research and education. These symposia will be held Thursday through Saturday under the themes "Frontiers of Knowledge" and "Frontiers of Education."

"Most people do research that is not truly at the frontiers," said Birgeneau, who also is a professor of physics. "If you look at the scientific literature, the vast majority of papers simply move the field forward incrementally. The researchers are not trying to open up new vistas; they are not taking intellectual risks. Places like Berkeley have the talent and intellectual depth needed for risk-taking research that truly breaks new ground."

Among the more than a dozen speakers and panelists involved in the symposia will be UC Berkeley history professor Maria Mavroudi, who recently received a MacArthur "genius" fellowship for her research in Greek and Arabic cultural interactions in the Middle Ages; Steven Lerman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor and director of MIT's new OpenCourseWare initiative that places coursework for virtually all classes on the campus's Web site, bringing unexpected results such as increased interactions between students and faculty; and Dr. Julie Gerberding, a UC Berkeley alumna who is director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She will discuss the most challenging current infectious diseases.

Christopher Edley, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), will lead a Socratic dialogue with panelists who will discuss the challenges posed by immigration in a post-9/11 world.

Friday's inaugural ceremony will begin with processions by a few hundred members of the campus community, including alumni, faculty, administrators and staff. Faculty members will be dressed in colorful academic regalia, as will Birgeneau, who will wear a dark blue gown and his blue hood from Yale University, where he received his Ph.D. in physics in 1966.

During the inaugural ceremony, UC President Robert Dynes will present Birgeneau with the UC chancellor's medal and, at that time, Birgeneau will remove the blue robe and Yale hood and don chancellorial attire: a blue gown with three gold-trimmed blue chevrons on the sleeves.

Among the dignitaries who will participate in the various inaugural events will be representatives of the UC system, members of the UC Board of Regents, Nobel laureates, state and local elected officials, and community and business leaders.

Earlier on Friday, students will enjoy inaugural festivities on Sproul and Spieker plazas that include games and free cupcakes.

UC Berkeley students will also provide much of the inaugural entertainment. Marissa Matthews, a music major, will sing the National Anthem during the inaugural ceremony. She competed in an open campus audition and will be performing in what will be her most public solo performance to date.

Indus, a UC Berkeley South Asian cultural dance group that is wildly popular among students on campus, will perform during the inaugural as well.

Before coming to UC Berkeley, Birgeneau served four years as president of the University of Toronto. He previously was dean of the School of Science at MIT, where he spent 25 years on the faculty. He is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences, has received many awards for teaching and research, and is one of the most cited physicists in the world for his work on the fundamental properties of materials.

A Toronto native, Birgeneau received his B.Sc. in mathematics from the University of Toronto in 1963 and his Ph.D. in physics from Yale University in 1966. At UC Berkeley, Birgeneau holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Physics in addition to serving as chancellor. He and his wife, Mary Catherine, have four grown children.