Faculty, staff, alumni reconnect at reunions

To: April 30, 2007

The All-Alumni Luncheon was one event in a crowded schedule of reunions, lectures, receptions, and wine-tasting. (Photo by Terry Way)

Sunny springtime weather and an array of reunion events enticed some 800 alumni and guests to Banana Slug Spring Fair campus reunions on Saturday, April 28, for a day reconnecting with one another, former faculty, and the campus.

"I am continually amazed at the accomplishments of our alumni," said Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal as he opened the All-Alumni Reunion Luncheon. "Every day I discover more slugs making a difference in the world." Among them is Joseph DeRisi (Crown '92) who made the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle last week for his efforts to identify the genetic code of bugs suspected of wiping out a quarter of the nation's honeybees. Alumni, Blumenthal addded, "help build UCSC's reputation both nationally and internationally."

After lunch, Philip Berman, Chair of Biomolecular Engineering, discussed "Challenges in the Development of an AIDS Vaccine" at the Distinguished Faculty Lecture. Sixty eight million people worldwide have HIV, he noted, and an AIDS vaccine could be an important tool in slowing the spread of the disease. He described the decades of scientific and clinical effort involved in the vaccine development, and special challenges, including the virus' mutability. The clinical trial with which Berman was associated was not ultimately successful, but its findings may yet hold the key to future approaches.

Cheryl Scott (Oakes '74) was the first of two panelists who formally responded to Berman's remarks. "We need to lobby and be advocates for AIDS prevention, not just treatment," she said; adding that national medical budget priorities have not always done this. Scott speaks from experience; she is an award-winning medical epidemiologist at the California Department of Health Services Tuberculosis Control Branch and the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Global AIDS Program in Tanzania.

Gordon Ringold (Crown '72) responded next. "We've had the Nixon-era 'War on Cancer;' today, we need a concerted government program to support basic science that will help us make inroads in [AIDS] vaccine's development," he said. Ringold is chairman and CEO of Alavita Inc., which develops therapeutics for treatment of stroke, heart attack, and organ transplantation; he is also vice president of the UCSC Foundation.

The room was full for Oakes College's 35th Anniversary panel discussion at which Acting Chancellor Blumenthal introduced the college's founding provost, J. Herman Blake, "who has transformed the lives of thousands of students and teachers throughout the United States."

"We started with an idea and a cow pasture," Blake recalled, with faculty that had "an unending belief in the potential of every student and in excellence for every student." He reminded the audience that "we are the custodians of the past and trustees of the future."

After Blake's remarks and those from Anthropology Professor Adrienne Zihlman, former Oakes administrative officer Ron Saufley, Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger, Anthropology Professor Emerita Diane Lewis, and retiring Lecturer in Writing Don Rothman, an alumna in the audience shared her own recollections. Years ago, Blake approved her plan to leave college for a break only after she agreed to return. That 10-minute conversation, she said, changed her life; she soon re-enrolled, and is now an attorney.

A dedication ceremony and reception celebrated UCSC's new Humanities Building. Dean of Humanities Georges Van Den Abbeele discussed "The Humanities: Present and Future;" Peggy Downes Baskin talked about the importance of humanities and the Humanities Chair for Interdisciplinary Studies in Ethics which she endowed. The festivities "went green" as Don Amuzie, senior program manager for Pacific Gas and Electric, presented "Savings by Design" prizes for the building's outstanding energy efficiency to Acting Chancellor Blumenthal (a $57,382 "Owner Incentive Award") and to Thomas Hacker Architects (the $19,128 "Design Team Incentive Award").

The entire campus rolled out the red carpet for alumni. Department-sponsored events included opera performances; reunions for physics, education, psychology, and all sciences; and the Baskin School of Engineering 10th anniversary celebration. Receptions were offered at every college--Crown's 40th anniversary highlighted women in science, and Cowell hosted a retirement celebration for professor of classics John Lynch. Specialty events were held for alumni parents of college-age students; the class of 1972; Asian-American and Pacific Islander alumni; Jewish alumni; and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex alumni. Student Organization Advising and Resources (SOAR) sponsored a reunion, and about 50 alumni turned out for a dinner "celebration of access and achievement" former participants in the EOP Summer Bridge Program.

Many alumni concluded their campus visits at the Alumni Association's popular Alumni Vintners Wine Tasting, featuring wines from 15 vintners, gourmet treats by five chefs, and live jazz -all provided by UCSC graduates.

A gallery of photos from Banana Slug Spring Fair is available online.