‘Final goodbye’: Annual memorial honors deceased students, faculty

photo of people waiting for a memorial to begin
David McAllister/Senior Staff
A memorial service remembering UC Berkeley students, faculty and staff who passed away in the last year was held Wednesday. Messages to those who passed away were written on seed paper and will be planted in a campus garden.

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The UC Berkeley community gathered Wednesday at the annual campus memorial to honor campus students, staff and faculty who passed away over the past year.

The memorial, which took place by the flagpole west of California Hall from noon to 1 p.m., remembered more than 70 faculty, emeriti and staff, in addition to postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students. Chancellor Carol Christ addressed the mourning community and asked for a moment of silence to honor the community members who died.

“It’s a temptation to become numb, but we cannot be inured to tragedy; we cannot be inured to mourning,” Christ said during the event. “By mourning our losses together, we affirm our connectedness not only to those who mourn, but to each other as a campus.”

Grateful that the ceremony could be in person, Christ reflected on attending the campus memorial in 2013 after her husband passed away. It gave Christ comfort to mourn alongside the campus community, and she hoped attendees would be similarly comforted.

Christ noted that while the deaths of the 14 students “hit us the hardest,” each student left a lasting mark on all those who knew and loved them. She also acknowledged the contributions of emeriti faculty and staff retirees to the campus.

After Christ’s opening remarks, the names of all those who passed were read by Academic Senate chair Ronald Cohen, Chief People and Cultural Officer Eugene Whitlock, Graduate Student Assembly President Maria Pettis and ASUC President Chaka Tellem.

Attendees were also encouraged to write messages to those they had lost on seed paper, which will later be planted in a campus garden, according to Charlene Ashton, executive assistant to the vice chancellor of student affairs.

“On seed paper, you write a message to the one that you’ve lost … it’s kind of like they get to live their lives spiritually on campus,” Ashton said at the event. “I wanted some way to let the people who lost someone to grieve and to be able to leave their last message here on campus.”

In between reading the names of the deceased, artistic performances by various campus community members took place at the ceremony. This included poetry by undergraduate student Louis McKinnon and songs by the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, campus alumni and faculty.

The ceremony concluded with closing remarks from Christ who thanked attendees for their compassionate response.

“This is a great opportunity to, you know, give a last, final goodbye to whoever you lost,” Ashton said. “It’s just a great opportunity to have a little bit of the experience that they had when they were on campus as well.”

Contact Vani Suresh at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @vanisuresh_.