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CAA and The Berkeley Foundation Honor Outstanding Alumni at Inaugural Berkeley Charter Gala

June 15, 2016
Alumnus of the Year Jim Simons and Chancellor Dirks

Alumnus of the Year Jim Simons and Chancellor Dirks

The Cal Alumni Association (CAA) and UC Berkeley came together on May 12 to honor the 2016 recipients of the Alumni Awards at Berkeley Charter Gala.

Described once as the “world’s smartest billionaire,” Alumnus of the Year James “Jim” Simons came to Berkeley after completing his undergraduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and received his Ph.D. from Cal in 1962 at just 23 years old.

“Some great lives proceed along a straight line—predictable, unwavering,” said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “Other great lives—like that of Jim Simons—follow a more circuitous path, taking surprise left turns again and again, not afraid to fail. And that fearlessness has paid off.”

After a stint in academia, Simons went into business, founding Renaissance Technologies, an investment management firm. Currently, Simons oversees the Simons Foundation, which invests in math and science research and education, including its $60 million project on campus: the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, housed in UC Berkeley’s Calvin Lab.

“Berkeley has meant a great deal to me, and this award means a great deal to me,” Simons told the sold-out crowd at Maxwell Family Field.

Other award recipients included Michael G. Harris ’64, M.Opt. ’65, O.D. ’66, M.S. ’68, (Berkeley Founders Award), Bruce Beasley M.A. ’62, Ginger Ehn Lew J.D. ’74, and Johnathan Rodgers ’67 (Campanile Excellence in Achievement Award), Randy Schekman (Fiat Lux Faculty Award), and Benito Delgado-Olson ’07 and Connor Landgraf ’13, M.Eng. ’14 (Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement by Young Alumni).

For information about the awards, please visit