The International House, or I-House, at UC Berkeley houses nearly 600 students from 75 countries, according to I-House Director of Philanthropy William Howley. Opened in 1930, I-House has alumni including U.S. governors, California Supreme Court justices, seven Nobel laureates and ambassadors representing nine countries.
Every year, alumni are honored for their “contributions to leadership and intercultural understanding,” according to a statement on the I-House website. On May 9, Baroness Oona King was honored at I-House during the 31st Annual Celebration and Awards Gala, receiving the 2019 International House Alumna of the Year award.
The alum of the year is chosen by the I-House board of directors and I-House Executive Director Hans Giesecke based on their “remarkable social contributions in their personal and professional lives,” according to an email from Howley. Past recipients of the award include the Crown Prince of Norway Haakon Magnus; the president and co-founder of the Schmidt Family Foundation, Wendy Schmidt; and the director of the Academy Award-winning documentary “Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson.
I-House selected King as the 2019 alumna of the year “to recognize her work as a member of the British Parliament, her advocacy for human rights, and her visionary leadership as the Director of Diversity Strategy at Google,” Howley said in an email.
At the event, Chancellor Carol Christ commented that King is “a woman who has truly taken the I-House mission to heart throughout her life and professional career,” according to a Berkeley News article. According to Howley, Giesecke commended her work in promoting a peaceful world through her service and leadership.
As a student at Haverstock Comprehensive School in London, King was told to pursue a career as a librarian instead of setting her sights on becoming the prime minister of the United Kingdom. After a Bachelor of Arts degree in politics from York University, a scholarship to UC Berkeley and a year of residence at I-House, in 1997 she became the second Black woman to be elected as a member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and she is currently an executive at Google.
King’s own speech at the event referenced her personal background and how her education empowered her. According to a Berkeley News article, King expressed gratitude at the event for the opportunity to study at UC Berkeley and live at I-House, saying, “That was a year that has changed the course of my life.”
According to an email from Howley, “Baroness King implored students to find their spheres of influence, to make themselves useful to get into positions of leadership, and emphasized the opportunities that personal setbacks often present.”