BERKELEY — The class that never had a graduation ceremony finally got one.
In 1970, UC Berkeley's large-scale graduation ceremony was canceled because of the sit-ins, demonstrations and marches sweeping the campus as students protested the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the shootings at Kent State. While many academic departments held small, informal ceremonies, 3,300 students left college that year without a traditional rite of passage.
The class of '70 finally received its graduation ceremony Saturday--20 years late but, according to many ebullient graduates, worth the wait.
"It was unfinished business," said Teresa Mathews, a bookkeeper from Chico who came to the event with her husband, who was also in the class of '70. "Tears came to my eyes when I saw the invitation. It was a chapter of my life that never finished properly and this was a chance to finish it."
The ceremony began just before the Cal-UCLA football game when more than 200 \o7 fortysomething \f7 graduates donned black caps and gowns. Then they marched into a large ballroom where about 400 friends and relatives assembled to cheer them on.
Just like any other graduation, the hourlong ceremony featured speeches galore. But these were hardly traditional graduation speeches.
Newly installed Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien, who taught for many years at the university, told the graduates: "Some of us who were on the faculty back then think it somewhat of a miracle that the university survived those times."
One theme clearly resounded throughout the ceremony: This class was different from most other classes. They didn't stage panty-raids or cheer on the football team or join the Greek system. They protested. They clashed with police and National Guardsmen. They did their homework while tear gas wafted across campus. They skipped lectures to occupy the administrative building.
"The class of '70 occupies a unique place in our legacy," Leon Litwack, a Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor told the alumni. "It's a familiar phrase from your era: If you don't like the news go out and make some of your own. You did . . . and because of you the University of California has become synonymous around the world with the exercise of free speech."
But not all of the memories evoked by the graduation ceremony were happy ones. Robert Fenwick, a college professor from Santa Cruz, recalled that in 1970, "just walking across (campus) you were taking your life into your hands. All of my friends got gassed. We were terrified about the violence but also outraged by it."
Other alumni expressed decidedly mixed emotions about the events of 1970, which culminated in then-Gov. Ronald Reagan's shutting down the campus for two days.
"I was working to put myself through school in 1970," said Alice Kubler, a budget analyst at UC Berkeley. "I felt cheated that we didn't have a more traditional college life. . . . I felt cheated that we didn't have a real graduation."
But the belated graduation ceremony obviously struck an emotional chord with the class of '70. Marianne Tanner, director of reunions for the Alumni Assn., said: "There has never been this kind of response before to a reunion." Calls flooded in from alumni as far-flung as Alaska and New York, she said.
"This was an emotional response," Tanner said. "People feel good about coming back to Cal, they're appreciative something is being done for them."