Books: “There Was Light” at UC Berkeley
I recently added a book to my collection titled There Was Light: Autobiography of a University. Published in 1970 by Doubleday, and edited by novelist (and Berkeley grad) Irving Stone, it contains essays by thirty-nine notable alumni of the University of California at Berkeley in honor of the school’s centennial.
The essays are reflections of each writer’s experience at the school as an undergraduate, graduate, faculty and/or Board of Regents member. Surprisingly, many memories are an honest balance of both positive and negative. Since the university’s centennial was celebrated during years of great social change in Berkeley and around the country, some reflect that as well.
What made this particular volume interesting this time around (I’d seen it other times in used bookstores) was that it bears the signatures of sixteen of those essayists, as well as that of editor Stone, who wrote the biographical novels Lust For Life (Vincent van Gogh) and The Agony and the Ecstasy (Michelangelo) as well as Men to Match My Mountains, among many works.
I was drawn to the book because of the essay by (and signature of) George R. Stewart, author of Earth Abides, Storm, Fire, Names on the Land, Ordeal By Hunger, and many, many other works of fiction and fact. I’m a completist of sorts when it comes to Stewart, and have been slowly trying to get signed copies of all of his works…quite a task. I’m only about halfway there.
But the serendipitous bonus here was the other signatures. Here is the list, in order, with a brief (and woefully inadequate) description of each person’s occupation or area of expertise/service:
– Irving Stone – Novelist
– Myron Krueger – Professor of Forestry, and timber management industry specialist
– Horace M. Albright – Director, National Park Service under FDR; Corporate Officer of US Potash Co.
– Jacques Schnier – Professor of Architecture and Art, well-known sculptor
– Harry Kingman – Lobbyist for the underprivileged, and baseball coach
– Bob Haas – White House Fellow; CEO, Levi Strauss & Company
– Dan Koshland – Biochemist, Professor of Molecular Biology, Editor of Science magazine
– George R. Stewart – Writer and Professor of English
– Edwin W. Pauley – Oilman, UC Board of Regents, namesake of UCLA’s Pauley Pavillion
– Stanley McCaffrey – President, University of the Pacific
– W. Byron Rumford – California State Assemblyman, early opponent of segregation
– Paul Schuster Taylor – Agricultural Economist and Professor, Husband of Dorothea Lange
– Knowles Ryerson – Dean of Agriculture at both UC Davis and UC Berkeley
– Ina Jackson – Teacher and Educator, early Board Member of the NAACP
– Reva Beck Bosone – Utah’s first female state senator, US House of Representatives
– Antonia Brico – Classical Pianist and Conductor
– Donald McLaughlin – Dean, College of Mining; UC Regent
Most of these men and women achieved their “fame” prior to the book’s publication, but others such as Haas, Koshland (each with family ties to Levi, Strauss & Co.) and McCaffrey, achieved greater recognition after 1970. To the best of my knowledge, of the seventeen signatories, only Haas survives.
There were other notable essayists whose signatures do not grace this volume (economist and ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith, cartoonist Rube Goldberg, television host Ralph Edwards, athletes Joe Kapp and Jackie Jenson, among others), but I’m pleased just the same.
Now, if I could only locate a signed copy of Earth Abides…