Campus community remembers deceased students, staff and faculty

Kayla Shapiro/Staff
Attendees of a memorial honoring UC Berkeley students and faculty who have passed away look towards a dove flying by as part of the ceremony.

On Thursday, the beating heart of the usually animated UC Berkeley campus was still as friends and family gathered in front of California Hall to pay respects to campus staff, students, faculty and emeriti who have died over the past year.

The campus held its 11th annual memorial service to honor campus community members who have passed away since last September. The three-part ceremony included various artistic interludes and a reading of the names of the deceased by Academic Senate vice chair Elizabeth Deakin, Staff Ombuds Office Director and Ombudsperson Sara Thacker and ASUC President Connor Landgraf.

The commemorations — a unique selection of song, dance, and poetry — were specifically chosen to reflect the diversity among different groups on campus, according to Helena Weiss-Duman, one of the ceremony organizers and director of external relations and the Office of Protocol.

Among other performances, Berkeley alumna and university relations staff member Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto performed a piece called “Memories” on the Japanese koto as students flowed in and out of classes around the ceremony. Even the Campanile’s noontime carillon concert, performed by the university’s assistant carillonist David Hunsberger, was a somber dedication to the deceased.

The memorial service became a yearly campus tradition after former UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Berdahl organized the first memorial 11 years ago in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“This is a beautiful ceremony that speaks about the humanity of the Berkeley campus,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who gave the welcoming and closing remarks of the ceremony.

For academic retention counselor and Berkeley alumna Ginelle Perez, the campuswide ceremony is an invaluable commemoration for campus community members who have been lost.

“It was a beautiful ceremony, and I really liked the symbolism behind it,” Perez said. “In addition to individual memorials, the campuswide service reminds us that we are one community.”

Perez attended the service to honor her longtime friend and UC Berkeley graduate Milanca Alicia Lopez, who died in a car accident in May. Lopez’s six-year-old son, Xavier Lopez, also died as a result of the accident and was included in the memorial service.

“It means a lot to the family for people like the chancellor to organize this for us,” Perez said. “It is more meaningful than just that phone call or that letter you get from the school.”

The ceremony concluded with a release of white doves accompanied by a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Mourners and passersby watched the doves in silence until they disappeared westward.

Contact Justin Abraham at [email protected]