September 11 marks the anniversary of the tragic loss of countless lives, including UC Berkeley’s own Mark Bingham ’93. On September 11, 2001, Bingham was the last passenger to board United Flight 93, the flight that was hijacked by terrorists but crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, following an attempt of the passengers and crew members to regain control of the plane and avoid the intended target. During the hijacking, Bingham called his mother and reported the events unfolding onboard. Those who knew him have no doubt that he was instrumental in taking down the plane and avoiding more lives lost.
Bingham, a gay rugby champion, is remembered as an inclusive and good-natured athlete and friend. During his life, Bingham struggled with his identity, as both a masculine competitor and a gay man. Discovering The Fog, a gay rugby team in San Francisco, helped Bingham not only accept who he was but also form a community. His legacy lives on today through the international Bingham Cup, an annual LGBTQ+ inclusive rugby championship dedicated in his honor. The competition, which now exceeds 74 international rugby teams, is a testament to Bingham’s impact on those who knew him and his dedication to creating spaces for those who feel like they have none.
The Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement by Young Alumni, presented annually since 2005 by UC Berkeley and the Cal Alumni Association, is named in Bingham’s honor to celebrate those who embody his legacy. The award recognizes recent graduates who have made a significant contribution to their community, country, or the world at large. This year, the Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement by Young Alumni was awarded to Christopher Ategeka ’11, M.S. ’12 and Tam Ma ’02, J.D. ’11. Ategeka is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist from Uganda who has dedicated his life to tackling the unintended or ignored consequences of technology. Ma serves as deputy legislative affairs secretary for California Governor Gavin Newsom. She is intent on using public policy as a catalyst for social change.
To learn more about Mark Bingham and the Bingham Cup, watch The Rugby Player, the award-winning documentary about Mark Bingham’s life and legacy. The Rugby Player is available to stream online for the 20th anniversary of 9/11.