John Ernster ’69 and I met when I was a freshman in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and he was a sophomore in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He would leave anonymous notes in my books when I studied in Doe Library. He got my attention, and we dated for a year and a half. When we broke up, we married other people, had children, and led our respective lives — he in Southern California and I in Northern California. We did not see each other until our paths crossed at an alumni gathering in Southern California over 30 years later. I was on the board of the UC Berkeley Foundation at the time and had flown down for the event. John’s voice is unmistakable — and apparently so was the attraction. The rest is history. We have been together for 16 years now.
I met many of my dearest friends today through sorority life. My experience living in the Theta house ran the gamut because of how our lives changed during those four years. When I entered in 1966, we were still having fraternity/sorority exchanges and parties. When I graduated, the campus was dealing with demonstrations over the invasion of Cambodia. All classes, including your major, were pass/fail. Tear gas was everywhere. There were no graduation ceremonies in Memorial Stadium, and while some departments held ceremonies, many students just had their diplomas sent home. I find it particularly ironic that in 2020, my 50th reunion year, the Class of 2020 did not have graduation ceremonies either. Both times because we were fighting a war. Just a different kind.
I have been going to Cal football games ever since I graduated, and John joined me when we reunited. Many in my family regularly attend Cal games, although none as fervently as my mom, Katharine Shaw Wallace Thompson ’48. Until this year she insisted on going to all of them, even when they began at 7:30 p.m. When we were growing up, game days began with a record playing Cal songs. “Our Sturdy Golden Bears” was a family anthem.