New Beginnings

June 2, 2008 by Dean Shankar Sastry

On May 24, I participated in my first commencement as dean of Berkeley Engineering. It filled me with pride to watch 1,045 excited and rain-soaked graduates walk, dance or otherwise cross the Greek Theatre stage to celebrate their success in completing some of the most difficult majors UC Berkeley has to offer.

But it was a bittersweet day, tinged by the absence of one student in particular, nuclear engineering senior Christopher Wootton, who was killed near his Southside fraternity exactly three Saturdays before he was to join these 1,045 others. The 21-year-old from Bellflower, California, had a 3.8 GPA and had just been accepted in the nuclear engineering graduate program when he lost his young life. His father, Jim Wootton, took Christopher’s place on stage to accept his degree, to the respectful and sustained applause of everyone in the Greek Theatre.

The show must go on. Thankfully, we were surrounded on that day by our distinguished faculty and warm friends and family, including our esteemed commencement speaker, Richard Blum (B.S.’58, M.B.A.’59 Bus. Ad.), philanthropist, financier, chair of the UC Regents and founder of Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies. IEOR senior Audrey Fischer delivered the student address, BioE/MSE senior Widya Mulyasasmita received the Bechtel Award for her outstanding scholastic achievement and service, and EECS senior Matt Johnson was recognized for having been named one of five finalists for the University Medal, Berkeley’s top honor for a graduating senior.

There were gifted students everywhere. There were budding doctors and Olympic hopefuls, students who have done brilliant research and brought their engineering skills to poor developing nations, invented cool new technologies, competed in dance contests and on gymnastics teams, and mentored schoolchildren in math and science. Among them were a 55-year-old who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in EECS and five undergraduates who achieved perfect GPAs of 4.0.

Every one of these students has a story to tell and, now, a new path to pursue. We wish them courage and fearlessness as they forge those paths in this dangerous and beautiful world.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean, College of Engineering
NEC Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering
Email Dean Sastry


Attention SoCal Alumni!
June 9th: Special Southern California Alumni Event: Can Nuclear Energy Reduce Global Warming?:
Meet College of Engineering Dean S. Shankar Sastry, hear a faculty lecture by Jasmina L. Vujic, Department Chair of Nuclear Engineering, and network with fellow Berkeley Engineering alumni in Los Angeles.