In 1901, Teddy Roosevelt was sworn in as president of the United States of America, the College Board introduced their first standardized test and the Campanile was still 14 years away from completion. That same year, the UC Rally Committee was formed with one main objective: to control the dangerous Bonfire Rallies that happened sporadically across campus. Much has changed in school spirit since the early days of Bonfire Rallies — from the introduction of the Stanford Axe in the 1930s, to the first firing of the California Victory Cannon in 1963, to more appropriate and inclusive representations of Cal spirit in the Charter Week Games and Homecoming Showcase Rally instead of a Men’s Smoker Rally. One thing did not change — the student response to, admiration of and spirit in the bonfire. While environmental conditions limited our bonfire to an annual event many years ago, it is still lit every fall (weather permitting) in front of thousands of students, alumni and friends chanting for Cal, for the Bears and for the Axe. After a brief hiatus last year due to the drought, the biggest legal bonfire west of the Mississippi River will be back again this year on Nov. 18 in the Greek Theatre during the Bonfire Rally — but this time with a new friend.
Over the past few years, many leaders and students across campus have raised concerns about the long-term future of this magnificent tradition because of environmental factors. But a challenge for the Bears has never been a roadblock, and these conversations sparked UC Rally Committee members to begin exploring additional outlets for this fire, not in an effort to replace this tradition but to continue to build onto and evolve it, showing just how resiliently Cal spirit and Cal pride can burn. For more than a year, the Rally Committee chairs, vice chairs of rallies and UC cannoneers have been working with a local company, Sheet Metal Alchemist Inc., to design and build a 10-foot-tall, more than 2,000-pound torch to be lit alongside the bonfire. The Fiat Lux Torch will be unveiled Nov. 18 at the Big Game Bonfire Rally. Currently, the UC Rally Committee is conducting a fundraising campaign to finance this structure. For more information on the fundraiser, please visit ucrc.berkeley.edu/fiatluxtorchfundraising. This new, high-tech structure was designed in a traditional fashion to more adequately represent our campus today — it is innovative, timeless and larger than life. After 115 years, being able to continue this tradition, yet adding relevant and more representative aspects, is something very few universities can do. This addition to the rally works alongside its traditional aspects, bringing together the old and the new, recognizing where we came from, the advancements we’ve made and our unknowable but certainly groundbreaking, thoughtful and world-changing future.
Cal spirit stems from Cal pride, a pride uniquely owned by each student, faculty member and administrator that has passed through Sather Gate. This has encouraged, evolved and created a multifaceted identity that is expressed thousands of different ways across our campus. One shared aspect of this identity is the connection Cal pride provides us not just with our peers but with those who graduated 10, 20 or 100 years before us. This connection distinguishes the Cal community and is what fueled the never-ending flames of bonfire, and now, the never-ending fire of the Fiat Lux Torch. One-hundred and fifteen years after the Fiat Lux Torch is introduced and 230 years after the first “official” Bonfire Rally, there is only one thing we know for certain: Cal pride will burn bright the night before the Bears battle for the Axe, and the manifestation of this in the flames of our fires will connect our great-grandchildren not just with us and those who came before but with the countless generations of Bears to follow.
Andy Keeton and Siena Guerrazzi are the chair and treasurer of the UC Rally Committee, respectively.