‘A new beginning’: Campus celebrates Charter Day with 150th birthday bash

Karen Chow/Staff
An alumna takes a picture with the commemorative poster outside Haas Pavilion.

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Update 04/02/18: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from Cal Alumni Association spokesperson Sarah Juckniess.

A long procession of campus students carrying class banners — the oldest dating back to 1873 — filled Haas Pavilion on Friday, accompanied by orchestral music from the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra Brass Ensemble, as alumni, staff and community members followed suit.

Excitement charged the air as attendees seated themselves to celebrate the 150th anniversary of UC Berkeley’s Charter Day — the anniversary of the creation of California’s first public university system.

The Charter Day celebration had approximately 6,500 RSVPs, with appearances and speeches from notable figures such as UC Board of Regents chair George Kieffer, UC President Janet Napolitano, Mayor Jesse Arreguín, ASUC President Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris, Oski and Chancellor Carol Christ.

“Charter Day is a celebration of our founding as a public university, a reminder of all that we have achieved these past 150 years, and a commitment to continue being a beacon of opportunity and excellence in the future,” Christ said in an email.

In her Charter Day address, Christ commended the UC for being an example to public higher education systems throughout the world, adding that at the center lies UC Berkeley — its “shining jewel.”

Along with the campus’s strengths, Christ also acknowledged several issues to address going forward: the campus’s financial situation, its housing crisis and the need to increase diversity.

Rebecca Ulrich, executive assistant to the vice provost for the faculty, said some of her favorite moments of the celebration were Christ’s speech and the recital of “Around the Bend, Strawberry Creek,” a poem by José Rodriguez, editorial director of University Development and Alumni Relations.

“To me it feels like a new beginning,” Ulrich said about the celebration. “It made me feel hopeful.”

On March 23, alumni returned to UC Berkeley to celebrate the university's 150th birthday.

On March 23, alumni returned to UC Berkeley to celebrate the university’s 150th birthday.

The celebration included performances by music department instructor Candace Johnson, Cal Band and UC Men’s Octet, a campus a cappella group. A crowd favorite was when the Jumbotron displayed an archival video of “The Play” — a legendary moment in Cal Athletics when the Cal football team seized a victory against Stanford in 1982 — narrated by the original announcer, Joe Starkey, himself.

Audience members donned blue and gold attire while wearing “Class of:” pins provided by the Cal Alumni Association.

The celebration attracted recent and longtime alumni — some of whom attended UC Berkeley’s centennial anniversary 50 years ago.

Class of 1962 alumna Sarah Kulberg recalled when she had attended the campus’s 100th celebration, and said she appreciated the broad representation among the speakers present at Friday’s event.

Recent graduates of the class of 2017 Delphine Ho and Stella Chen said the number of alumni from various classes present at the celebration was moving, with Ho adding that the speeches added to the sense of community at UC Berkeley.

“It’s nostalgic,” Chen said. “Even though we’ve only been gone for a year.”

Contact Francesca Munsayac at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.