Japanese Americans receiving honorary degrees from Berkeley

Commencement: A special day Cal students deserve

After years of hard work and personal growth, graduating from college can bring a mix of emotions, from pride and nostalgia to fear and excitement about what lies ahead. It also brings a special day when, at Berkeley, some 5,000 graduates and over 40,000 guests gather for a formal procession, speeches, performances, and more to mark this momentous occasion. 

The campuswide commencement ceremony began in 1873. During a portion of World War II, the university maintained an accelerated program of three terms yearly, and each term ended with a “graduation convocation.” The campuswide event was suspended in 1970 because of campus unrest, at which time individual departments and affinity groups began holding their own ceremonies, a practice that continues today. (More than 200 members of the Class of 1970 returned in 1990 for a belated ceremony before a Cal-UCLA football game.) The campuswide ceremony was restored in the early 90s, giving students the added opportunity to experience the joy and meaning of commencement with everyone graduating that year, not only those in their department. 

Berkeley stopped conferring honorary degrees on commencement speakers in 1972 — with one exception. In 2009, the university honored 42 former students whose studies had been cut short nearly seven decades before, when Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II. Under President Franklin Roosevelt’s order, some 120,000 individuals — more than 2,500 of whom were students at California public colleges and universities — were forced to leave their homes, farms, and businesses for fairgrounds, migrant quarters, and other facilities in the interior. UC estimates that the internment impacted close to 700 Japanese American students on four of its campuses, about 500 of them at Berkeley. Acknowledging their struggle and perseverance in rebuilding their lives, the honorary diplomas bestowed in 2009 were inscribed with the Latin phrase Honoris causa inter silbas academi restituere justitiam — ”to restore justice among the groves of the academy.”

 

 

Watch comedian Maz Jobrani give the keynote speech at the 2017 commencement.

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Japanese Americans receiving honorary degrees from Berkeley

Commencement: A special day Cal students deserve

After years of hard work and personal growth, graduating from college can bring a mix of emotions, from pride and nostalgia to fear and excitement about what lies ahead. It also brings a special day when, at Berkeley, some 5,000 graduates and over 40,000 guests gather for a formal procession, speeches, performances, and more to mark this momentous occasion. 

Barry C. Barish '57, Ph.D. '63

Alumnus of the Year proves Einstein was right

Barry C. Barish ’57, Ph.D. ’63 says watching ocean waves marked the start of his work on detecting gravitational waves a century after Einstein’s prediction. His research would win him the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shares, as well as Berkeley’s 2018 Alumnus of the Year.

Strawberry Creek, UC Berkeley campus

Around the Bend, Strawberry Creek

A poem written and performed by José L. Rodríguez Nodal, a long-time staff member with deep family ties to UC Berkeley, for the university’s 150th birthday on March 23, 2018

The Big C on Charter Hill

Give me a (concrete) C!

On our rugged eastern foothills,
Stands our symbol clear and bold, 
Big C means to fight and strive
And win for blue and gold.

— Excerpt from the song “Big C,” written in 1913 by Harold P. Williams and N. Loyall McLaren

Lillian Gilbreth

Lillian Gilbreth: A master of human behavior and engineering

By today’s standards, Lillian Gilbreth 1900, M.A. 1902 was a superwoman. She studied literature at Berkeley in anticipation of becoming a teacher — and was the first woman to speak at a commencement ceremony — but her path took a dramatic turn. In 1915, she earned a Ph.D.

Trustees from the College of California at Founders Rock, 1860

Charter Day: A university is born

The University of California began on March 23, 1868, when Gov. Henry Haight signed an act catalyzing the audacious idea that California should have a great public university — one that would serve equally the children of immigrants and settlers, landowners and industrial barons.

Cal's emblem and colors

Cal’s blue, gold, and bear

The university colors of blue and gold were chosen in 1873 by a committee of representatives from each class. Blue was considered because it reflected the sky, student cadet uniforms, and Yale, from which many of the university’s founders and early administrators had graduated.