More than 100 University of California, Berkeley, campus faculty, staff, students, and retirees gathered September 27, 2010 for the annual campus memorial service to remember those in the University community who died during the previous year. Other friends and family of many of the deceased joined them.
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau officiated at the event, the ninth annual commemoration since the tradition was revived by Birgeneau’s predecessor, Robert Berdahl.
The ceremony took place on the lawns west of California Hall and above the Valley Life Sciences Building. This year is 150 years since the campus site was dedicated to academic purposes by the College of California.
The flag on the Class of 1927 flagpole hung at half-mast and formed a backdrop for the ceremony, along with two wreaths of blue and gold flowers.
The ceremony “has become a beautiful annual tradition” Birgeneau said. “Today we mourn the loss of some 75 members of our campus community.”
He called attention to the deaths of six undergraduates. “Their brief time at Berkeley has left an indelible mark for all those who knew and were inspired by them. These students will always be cherished as part of Cal history.”
Four current academic staff and faculty were also among those remembered, as were ten staff and four graduate students.
More than fifty emeritus and retired faculty and retired campus staff were also among those remembered. Five UC police officers were on the list, and other working members of the campus community from custodian Ing Thongban to Professor David Blackwell of Statistics who Birgeneau recalled as “the first African American professor in campus history.”
“Each and every person we lost this year was a vital member of our Cal family.”
Birgeneau noted that this particular ceremony does not include alumni by name, since there are so many and it would be near impossible to assemble a comprehensive list of the recently deceased, “but we also think of them at this time.”
After a moment of silence, the names of the deceased were read by representatives of different campus communities: Professor Fiona Doyle, chair of the Academic Senate, for faculty; Staff Ombudsperson Sara Thacker for staff; ASUC President Noah Stern for students.
“We miss our colleagues. Our lives have been enriched by their presence in our community”, Doyle said.
There was one poem, and three musical interludes. Mary Catherine Birgeaneau, wife of the Chancellor, read “A Parable of Immortality” by Henry Van Dyke. The student choral group Perfect Fifth sang Sicut Cervus, as well as “This is My Song” by Sibellius.
Candace Johnson from the Department of Music delivered a soaring rendition of “Because We Believe” by Andrew Bocelli that had many in the audience wiping their eyes.
The ceremony began and concluded with a lone bagpiper, Jeff Campbell. As he played “Amazing Grace” a group of white rock doves was released, circled the center of the campus against a cloudless blue sky, and headed off to the northeast. The woman who brought them said their home is in Martinez and they would arrive there shortly.
Names of the deceased were displayed on a stand at the base of the flagpole. A table nearby provided a place where attendees could leave personal mementos and remembrances.
The ceremony was being filmed by a crew working for Frederick Wiseman who is making a documentary film of the campus.