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Berkeley’s greatness lies in its unique tapestry of rich traditions—a pioneering spirit, academic excellence and innovation, and opportunity.

A pioneering spirit is just one of the driving forces behind the university’s stunning record of recurring academic breakthroughs and discoveries and in the ever-changing life of the university. State-of-the-art research facilities, an intense pursuit of knowledge, a world-class library system, and a rich tradition of Nobel Prize winners epitomize Berkeley’s academic excellence. Opportunity can be seen in the faces of its students, the devotion of its graduates, and the generosity of its philanthropists.

On the corner of Hearst Avenue and Gayley Road lies Founder’s Rock, the spot where the 12 founders stood on April 16, 1860, to dedicate property that on March 23, 1868, was chartered as the University of California. This event is now known and annually celebrated as Charter Day.

A student committee was formed in 1873 to select the university’s colors. The committee chose blue for the color of the California sky, the student cadet uniforms, and the number of Yale graduates who were instrumental in the founding and administration of the university. Gold represented the color both of California’s wild poppies and its celebrated mineral treasures.

In the spring of 1895, the university sent its first athletic team to compete out of state. The 12-man track squad carried with it two blue banners bearing the word “California” and the image of the state grizzly bear embroidered in gold. When the successful team returned home, English professor Charles Mills Gayley composed the song “The Golden Bear.” From then on, the Golden Bear, later named “Oski,” became Berkeley’s mythical guardian. Disguised inside a papier maché head, this fun-loving and sometimes mischievous bear appears at social events, rallies, and games, dressed in a padded size 54 sweater, blue pants, white gloves, and oversized shoes.

The legends of its heroes can be found in the university’s songs and in celebrations that have come down through the generations. While some traditions endure to this day, others will probably never return. The chancellor no longer rides around campus on horseback, nor do the men of each class wear beanies, top hats, or silk hats to signify their academic class status. Also gone is that more glamorous time when women students sported parasols as they paraded across campus.

But many other traditions are alive and well at Berkeley. Signaling the imminence of finals, “The Hanging of Danny Deever” is the mournful music tolled by the Campanile bells on the last day of regular classes. Traditions surrounding athletics include spirit bonfires and rallies, the painting of the “Big C,” the Cal band and fight songs, card stunts performed by the student rooting section at football games, and the sound of the victory cannon signaling a Cal gridiron score. “The Axe,” the symbol of athletic prowess, is the prize that goes to the winner of the “Big Game” — the annual contest between Cal and its rival, Stanford University.

One of the newer traditions is Parents Weekend at Homecoming. Join us in the fall for the festivities.

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