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With UC Berkeley consistently ranked as the one of the top public universities in the nation, it’s no wonder it gets some world-class visitors, including — you guessed it — American presidents.
In honor of Presidents Day, here’s a list of the sitting presidents who have visited Cal. We’ve tried our best to be comprehensive, but for brevity, we’ve excluded visits by presidents before or after their time in office, as well as the president who had an official visit scheduled but canceled — we’re looking at you, William McKinley.
Much of this information appeared in a past Library exhibit called All Hail to the Chief, and the Library resources related to each president listed are by no means comprehensive.
1. Benjamin Harrison (1891)
During the spring of 1891, Benjamin Harrison came out for a visit, along with his wife and some of his cabinet members. After spending time in Southern California, his welcome in San Francisco “was a tremendous one of blazing lights, firing of cannon, tooting of whistles and pyrotechnics galore.”
On May 2, Harrison visited Berkeley, delivering a brief speech at the university, heralding the importance of institutions of higher learning. Later that day, he headed to Oakland, but the crowds were so unruly there that he couldn’t make it to the stand where he was supposed to speak. Instead, he delivered his speech while standing up in his carriage.
More: An account of Harrison’s travels, Through the South and West with the President, April 14-May 15, 1891, compiled by John S. Shriver, is available at The Bancroft Library.
2. Theodore Roosevelt (1903)
Theodore Roosevelt visited UC Berkeley in 1903, while he was president, as well as after his presidency, in 1911.
Roosevelt was friends with UC President Benjamin Ide Wheeler dating back to when Roosevelt was the governor of New York and Wheeler was teaching at Cornell University. When Roosevelt was planning a trip to California, Wheeler invited the president to speak at that year’s commencement ceremony. Roosevelt — a loyal pal — obliged.
The president was escorted to campus by mounted African American “Buffalo Soldiers” and gave the commencement address in the Greek Theatre, which, at the time, was not yet finished.
Afterward, Roosevelt, ever the outdoorsman, toured Yosemite, bonding with legendary conservationist John Muir.
More: The picture of Muir and Roosevelt that is shown above is part of Bancroft’s pictorial collection. Letters between Roosevelt and Muir are available on Calisphere.
3. William Howard Taft (1909)
William Howard Taft visited Berkeley in October of 1909, not long after taking office, an occasion marked by tragedy.
He was supposed to have been greeted by Beverly L. Hodghead, Berkeley’s first mayor, and mathematics professor Irving Stringham, who served as dean of faculties.
But that’s not what happened.
Stringham — who had fallen ill — died the morning Taft arrived. But despite that tragic turn, Taft’s visit otherwise went smoothly, with the president making a grand entrance — complete with a cavalry troop and university cadets — at the Greek Theatre, where he delivered an unplanned 10-minute address.
4. Woodrow Wilson (1919)
Woodrow Wilson — with the fitting nickname of The Professor — visited UC Berkeley as president in September of 1919, on a tour meant to garner support for America’s participation in the League of Nations, the international peacekeeping organization established after World War I.
At the time, Wilson was eyed as a potential successor to the recently retired UC President Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
Wilson, who apparently had been instructed by his physician to avoid speaking, made an unexpected speech at the Greek Theatre.
Not too long afterward, Wilson’s health began to decline. After a series of strokes, Wilson ended his tour early. Plagued by health problems, he spent the rest of his term secluded in the White House.
More: Photos from Wilson’s visit are held at Bancroft and are available on Calisphere.
5. Harry S. Truman (1948)
President Harry S. Truman delivered the commencement address here in 1948. Professor Garff Wilson, in charge of ceremonies and protocol, estimated 60,000 attended the event, but a local Republican-owned paper ran a photo of seats that were left empty on purpose, stating the stadium was “sparsely filled.”
More: BAMPFA Film Archive has an 11-minute film documenting the commencement.
6. John F. Kennedy (1962)
The last sitting president to visit Cal, John F. Kennedy spoke in 1962 on Charter Day, which marks the founding of the university. A crowd of nearly 100,000 descended upon Memorial Stadium, making it the largest audience Kennedy had addressed, and Kennedy was awarded an honorary law degree.
In more recent times, Barack Obama’s oldest daughter, Malia, scouted UC Berkeley on her college tour — but her father was nowhere to be seen.
Malia eventually opted to attend Harvard, her parents’ alma mater.
But, hey — at least it wasn’t Stanford.
California Faces: The Bancroft Library Portrait Collection, Muir, John–POR:65. Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Willa Cather is perhaps the most famous female writer of the American Midwest. Cather was born and raised in Virginia and Nebraska, and despite spending most of her life in New York City, she never truly left the towns of her youth. This is clear in her massive oeuvre, in which works such as O Pioneers! (1913) and My Antonia (1918) focus on the realities of life in the heart of the country. This January, we’ll learn more about the woman who left behind this legacy when the collection of her 3000+ letters enters the public domain.
Happy New Year! With a new year comes the inescapable (and usually unfulfillable) list of New Year’s resolutions. At a loss for realistic ideas? Join us in our resolution to read more — including and especially for leisure. If you’ve resolved to spend some more time hitting the books (for pleasure), check out our recommendations for a great start to your reading year:
The holiday season is a time for joy, gratitude, and, of course, music. This year, we asked a special guest — and Bach enthusiast — to play a composition from the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library, home to some 200,000 volumes of books and printed music.
The Music Library is just one of 25 libraries that inspire, empower, and serve the scholars of this great university, with your support.
We hope you enjoy this musical treat!
Reduced intersession hours begin Monday, December 18. Be sure to check the hours before planning a visit! In addition, libraries will be closed on Friday, December 22.
Most libraries reopen on Tuesday, January 2 and continue with reduced hours until spring semester begins on Tuesday, January 16.
When Jennifer Doudna was in high school, a guidance counselor called her into his office to talk to her about her career.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Doudna recalls him asking.
“I want to be a scientist,” Doudna said.
“Girls don’t do science,” she remembers him saying.
She has been proving him wrong ever since.
For one, the UC Berkeley professor co-invented CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, hailed as the biggest biological breakthrough since the discovery of DNA’s molecular structure in the 1950s. The technology comes with the possibility of curing devastating diseases and improving lives but also raises ethical questions.
“If you have a tool that allowed precision changes to DNA to be made,” she said, “that provides a way that, in principle, one could alter human evolution by making changes that could become inherited by future generations.”
In the years that followed, Doudna has become instrumental in raising awareness and broadening understanding — within the scientific community and beyond — about the technology. It’s a duty Doudna doesn’t take lightly. “It’s something I feel deeply passionate about,” she said.
Doudna sat down in front of an audience Tuesday in the Bioscience & Natural Resources Library for a chat about her book (“A Crack in Creation” is out this year), her life, and her scientific breakthrough.
Here are five things we learned.
1. Her upbringing in Hawaii influenced her career path.
Growing up, Doudna lived in Hilo, a “small, rural town,” on the big island of Hawaii. It was living in Hawaii, surrounded by diverse wildlife (“blind cave spiders and all kinds of interesting plants,” she said) that sparked her lifelong love of science.
“When I think back on how I got interested in science and biology and chemistry,” she said, “it really, I think, stems from growing up in that island environment and wondering about how organisms can evolve to live in a setting like that.”
And in 10th grade, Doudna’s interest in science deepend, thanks to a chemistry teacher, Miss Wong, who “taught us kids that science was about solving puzzles — it was about asking questions and figuring out how to answer them.”
“I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It was fun, and I started imagining that it would be really great to grow up and have someone pay me to do what I thought was just kind of fun — playing around in a lab.”
2. Even bioscientists get the blues.
In her 40s — and well into her second decade of running her lab — she started to question whether her work was going to have an impact.
“I really almost had sort of a midlife crisis,” she said.
She took a leave of absence at Berkeley for an opportunity at a company — which, in retrospect, was the wrong move.
Although it was a great company, she began to realize, “It was just the wrong fit for me,” she said. “I felt it in my gut. This is not where I’m meant to be.”
“I realized that I just loved working with students. I loved being at a public university,” she said. “I really believed in that mission of having education available to anyone who can come and wants to learn and wants to work at this wonderful place that we have here.”
She asked her former colleagues at UC Berkeley if she could return.
“They took me back,” she said.
3. She didn’t like the name of her book at first.
Neither Doudna nor co-author Samuel Sternberg liked the title “A Crack in Creation,” which their editor suggested.
“It sounded very ominous, somehow,” she said.
Neither could think of a better title, and they were eventually won over.
“It does sort of convey this idea that … we’re sort of at a fork in the road, in a way, and it really does feel kind of profound at times to me.
“We’re at a point where now we as a species have a tool that will allow us to control … who we are.”
4. She has a complicated relationship with the spotlight.
“People have called me the public face of CRISPR, and I’m sort of shocked by it,” she said.
But with glare of the spotlight comes the opportunity to raise awareness and educate the public.
“I feel sort of a sense of honor that I’ve been sort of thrust into this position of being a spokesperson for science, and it’s something that I feel deeply passionate about,” she said.
5. She had a brush with rock royalty.
With her profile having reached new heights come opportunities that she had never previously imagined.
“I was at a thing in London not long ago, and I turned around, and behind me was (rock guitarist) Jimmy Page,” she said. “We just struck up a conversation. We started talking about science, and about guitars, and Led Zeppelin.
“And I said to him, ‘I’m such a fangirl. I mean, I listened to your music growing up. Would you mind if I took a picture with you?’
“And (now) I have a picture with Jimmy Page.”
As of today, EZproxy is available for off-campus access to licensed online resources. EZproxy allows users to connect to resources via CalNet sign-in or with their PIN / Cal 1 card number and without any configuration in a browser or device. No longer having to configure or install anything means that online resources are available from any computer anywhere.
EZproxy replaces our current home-grown Library proxy service. However, the home-grown proxy will be around until Summer 2018.
To learn more about EZproxy see our guide at guides.lib.berkeley.edu/ezproxy.
Moffitt Library provides undergraduates with something that no other space on campus can — a place where students of all disciplines can come together to actively discover, develop and prototype solutions that change the world. As the undergraduate hub for connected teaching, learning, and discovery at Berkeley, Moffitt Library now serves 10,000 students each day. “This is a very special place,” explains University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason.
And this is just the start. This summer, the Library received campus approval to build a campaign for the Center for Connected Learning at Moffitt Library. The Library is now laying the groundwork to bring together students, faculty, Library staff, and supporters to design an innovative and interactive teaching and learning space that spans all five floors of Moffitt Library.
We envision the Center for Connected Learning as a “collider space” where students flow between multimedia classrooms, collaborative project spaces, hands-on studios, and peer-to-peer and expert consultation — all within the same building. Students would have access to one-stop consultation on retrieval, evaluation and use of advanced information resources, tech support, and the skills required for 21st century information literacy.
Watch our video, Center for Connected Learning: The Undergraduate Collider Space, to learn more.
Making Sense of Science: Separating Substance from Spin
Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017
Cornelia Dean was a New York Times science writer for over thirty years and is currently a writer-in-residence at Brown University. Given her excellent previous work, I have every confidence that her new book, Making Sense of Science, will be well written and informative. The book is targeted for non-scientists who seek the background needed to evaluate scientific claims. Books like Dean’s are especially timely because of the anti-science climate that now reigns in Washington.
This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!
Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016
Goldrick-Rab conducted this study of thousands of young people to understand the obstacles they face in completing a degree whether at a two-year or four-year college. She discovered what you probably already know. Young people from middle class and low income families alike confront many challenges just to get an education: rising tuition and fees; the high cost of living (rent, food, gas, books, etc); a complicated and insufficient Federal aid program; difficulties finding flexible work that allows students to pay for and stay in school full time. Politicians will tell you that they worked their way through college and so should you. But, only a generation ago, theirs was a very different world in which hard work and determination got you a degree. Implementing policies that will make college affordable for all can happen. But first, we as a society must agree that a college education is a right for all and not just a privilege for those who can afford it.
This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!