Campus community mourns deceased at memorial service

Hayden Irwin/Staff

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Just west of California Hall, friends, family and community members gathered around the campus flagpole for a moment of collective mourning to remember the UC Berkeley staff, faculty, emeriti and students who died over the past year.

With blue skies overhead and the flag behind him at half mast, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks faced the approximately 250 attendees Monday afternoon and asked for a moment of silence to honor more than 90 UC Berkeley community members who recently died.

On the otherwise-bustling campus, the 13th annual memorial ceremony, held each year, offered a space of silence. Events and memorials such as these, Dirks said in his opening remarks, allow the community to grieve collectively and to remember those whose careers or time on campus were cut short.

“Those of us who knew and loved them have mourned individually,” Dirks said at the service. “Today, we can mourn together.”

Dirks said that although the time of the deceased students at UC Berkeley was too brief, he was sure these individuals left an “indelible mark” on their communities. Nine undergraduate and five graduate students were honored at the ceremony.

UC Berkeley Academic Senate Chair Panos Papadopoulos, Staff Ombuds Office Director and Ombudsperson Sara Thacker, Graduate Assembly President John Ready and ASUC President Pavan Upadhyayula read the names of the deceased faculty and emeriti, staff members and retirees, graduate students and undergraduate students, respectively.

In between each reading of names, the memorial featured artistic performances, from songs sung by campus a cappella group Perfect Fifth to a performance on the Japanese koto by UC Berkeley alumna and university relations staff member Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto.

Attendees and speakers said the memorial marked an important time for the community to come together.

“Having events like this and memorializing our community is important, because it shows the sense of community we have despite our differences,” Upadhyayula said. “These ceremonies emphasize our common identity.”

Martha Boccalini — wife of UC Berkeley chemistry professor Heino Nitsche, who passed away in July — and her friend Carol Wilkins said they thought the ceremony was beautiful.

Besides the performances, both remarked that other details of the ceremony stood out to them, from the release of doves at the closing of the memorial to the handout of small packets of forget-me-not flower seeds to the attendees.

As she approached the altar placed next to the flagpole, Boccalini picked up a letter that a student of Nitsche’s had left next to the vase of flowers.

Sophie Ho is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @sophanho.