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Editor’s Note: Rewriting History

September 21, 2020
by Pat Joseph
EdNote Image source: The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

This issue puts the “her” back into Cal’s history.

History has been written by the victors—and also by the men, it seems. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed firsthand in the annals of this very magazine, which started in 1897 as the University of California Magazine and operated for many decades as the California Monthly before becoming simply California, in 2006.

In my office, from which I’ve been mostly absent during the months of the pandemic, there is a large filing cabinet containing folders on persons profiled in the Monthly’s pages across the years. I’ve often had the experience of searching for the folder of some wildly accomplished alumna or distinguished female faculty member only to find that it doesn’t exist or contains only a page or two. Meanwhile, some obscure male functionary will have a fat dossier stuffed with clippings and headshots as if they’d cured polio or liberated Paris or something. 

This issue, devoted to the sesquicentennial of women at Cal, is an attempt, at this late date, to rectify that—to put the “her” back in Cal’s history. We’re confident you’ll be struck by the wealth of truly extraordinary alumnae in these pages, perhaps especially in the timeline, but also in the features and departments, including the literary stars in Now This and the formidable opinion columnists in Spotlight.

Before continuing, I should note that I’m the lone male on staff. As such, I’ll take a moment to doff my proverbial hat to my stellar female colleagues, who did the lion’s share of assigning, designing, and editing on this issue and who work hard to make every issue of the magazine as good as it can be.

Which brings me to the happy news that California won highest honors in the 2020 CASE Circle of Excellence Awards, claiming Grand Gold for alumni magazines published four times a year or more. Other winners in the category included the magazines of Dartmouth (Gold), Notre Dame (Silver), and the University of Pennsylvania (Bronze)—fine publications all.

CASE is the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, a global nonprofit association dedicated to educational advancement and development. Each year, the Circle of Excellence Awards showcase outstanding work in alumni journalism as well as other fields in support of education.

In bestowing the Grand Gold, the CASE judges wrote that California is “a national-caliber magazine” and “an exceptionally lively publication” that “addresses the issues of the day with editorial ambition and visual flair. Concepts are brilliantly conceived and executed. … Headlines are witty, covers compelling, and photos and illustrations dazzling.”

In addition to the magazine award, California Deputy Editor Laura Smith won Silver in the feature-writing category for her story on former Cal track star Alysia Montaño and the pregnancy penalty in professional sports. And alumnus Stephen O’Donnell won Gold for column/opinion writing for his moving first-person essay, “Living With Delusions,” about his struggle with schizophrenia.

In the past several years, the magazine has won Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards from CASE, but this is its first Grand Gold. There’s still one CASE Award that has eluded us: The Robert Sibley Award, named for the former editor of the California Monthly and director of the California Alumni Association, has been bestowed annually, since 1943, to the alumni Magazine of the Year.

It’s nice to have something to shoot for.

From the Fall 2020 issue of California.

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