In case you didn’t know, U.C. Berkeley is the center of the world. That’s why several hundred people attend the Berkeley EECS Annual Research Symposium each February, and this year is no exception. If you were here on campus with me this morning, you would be hearing – yet again – that there’s no better School of Engineering than Berkeley’s, no better EECS alumni than Berkeley’s, no better weather in the world than on this campus overlooking the glorious San Francisco Bay, and no more hip-or-hipster place to be. Anywhere.
BEARS 2013 started off today with Prof. David Culler acknowledging this year’s distinguished EECS Alumni Awards. Recipients include SanDisk Co-founder, President & CEO Sanjay Mehrotra; the co-inventor of a type of binary search tree, championship aerobatic pilot, and University of Washington professor Cecilia Aragon; and Sendmail developer Eric Allman, who mentioned from the podium that he may have helped create email but he’s not to blame for spam. Allman also noted that everybody who comes to Cal as a student is more lucky than smart to be here.
Yeah, right. How can that be the case if U.C. Berkeley continues to describe itself as the center of the technology universe, where swarms, networks, tablets, and big data, among a host of other innovations, were all developed and refined?
Having said these things, let me reminisce about my father, who by cosmic coincidence would turn 90 this week if he were still alive. Back in September 1940, when he was a desperately poor, 17-year-old fatherless child of the Depression, he showed up in this town to pursue a degree in biology and hopefully become a doctor. His widowed mother had lost the family’s 10 acres of orange trees, their only source of income, to the foreclosure agents of the Bank of Italy back in 1935, and my father brought that humiliation to Berkeley with him, along with 2 pencils, a pen, and one shabby change of clothing.