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Director’s Chair: Spring 2017

April 19, 2017
Cal Discoveries Travel group on Robben Island, South Africa, with Modise Phekonyane (center, yellow hat), a former detainee.
Cal Discoveries Travel group on Robben Island, South Africa, with Modise Phekonyane (center, yellow hat), a former detainee.

Last November, I hosted a Cal Discoveries Travel group to South Africa. I stood with other Cal alumni and friends before Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island, where together we learned about the struggles, pain, and—yes—reconciliation of apartheid. Through this trip, far from the borders of Berkeley, my fellow travelers and I gained a common, global experience that united us in shared understanding. The journey made me think of a conversation over lunch I had with the late Jan Erickson about her husband Richard Erickson ’49, executive director of the Cal Alumni Association (CAA) from 1957 to 1972, who led CAA’s second-ever foreign tour in 1963. Richard worked tirelessly alongside campus administration to serve the University, and by continuing traditions like those he established, we exemplify what our campus community can accomplish when we come together.

In many ways, Cal is a microcosm of the world. We are an international community of scholars and innovators, and ideas that begin in Berkeley often find their way into the global discussion for years to come. As an alumni association, it is not only our job to keep our alumni connected to the conversations emanating from our alma mater—it is our responsibility to facilitate them.

Michael Peevey ’59, M.A. ’61 unlocks the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

Strengthening our alumni connection to UC Berkeley is the central mission of our new Alumni Engagement Expansion initiative, a plan CAA is implementing to increase the number of Cal graduates—particularly recent graduates—who are actively engaged in our alumni community. We are launching our Alumnae Career Advancement series, opening new doors for women to connect with their most valuable resource—each other—through mentorship and networking. Our upcoming CALIFORNIA Live! event will bring together an accomplished panel to discuss “A Dream Denied? The Immigrant Experience in the Campus Community”—we hope you can come take part in the conversation.

As Golden Bears, we know that talking to one another, and listening to those who think, feel, and look differently than we do—is what positions us to change the world. We believe that, when we listen to members of our campus community share their voices, hear from students about the issues that are most concerning to them today, or provide platforms for alumni to educate each other in mutual advancement, we move forward collectively toward a richer legacy.

The Cal Alumni Association remains committed to bringing together a diverse array of minds to shape the future of our alumni association and, by extension, our global community. Let’s keep talking about how we can advance the University and public education at large; support immigrants who work, study, and teach on our campus and in our country; and ensure women have equal opportunities in our classrooms and our society. I am confident that CAA and our University can lead the way forward, embracing the future without forgetting the wisdom of the past.

Fiat Lux,
clothilde v hewlett signature
Clothilde Hewlett ’76, J.D. ’79
CAA Executive Director