BERKELEY — University of California, Berkeley, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau is one of three recipients of the Shinnyo-en Foundation's 2009 Pathfinders to Peace Prize, issued today by the Shinnyo-en Foundation during ceremonies in San Francisco.
Birgeneau, California's First Lady Maria Shriver, and Minnesota public school teacher Nan Peterson were honored for their contributions to bringing about a more peaceful world. The awards are part of the Shinnyo-en Foundation's "Six Billion Paths to Peace" project, which encourages individuals to become more aware of how their daily actions can contribute to peace.
In an awards announcement, the foundation singled out Birgeneau for his "commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and to the integration of public service as an essential component of the academic experience." UC Berkeley is home to the largest number of Peace Corps volunteers since the program began in 1961, and the campus's Cal Corps Public Service Center supports and coordinates student public service opportunities. Today, UC Berkeley students have made global poverty their most popular minor field of study.
The announcement from the Shinnyo-en Foundation noted that UC Berkeley's ninth chancellor, who also is a physics professor, has "worked tirelessly to instill in young people the importance of serving the greater good through volunteerism and service learning in all challenges facing the world."
"Education enables us to rise above misunderstandings, intolerance, hatred, violence," Birgeneau said in accepting the award. "Education empowers unique, diverse, and inspiring thought and ensures dynamic global dialogue and action. That is my path to peace."
The 2009 awards were presented at the Civic Energy Awards Luncheon, hosted by the foundation and organized by the Points of Light Institute and Corporation for National and Community Service. The program also featured the first Medals for Service Award, issued by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Shriver in conjunction with the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, taking place in San Francisco through Wednesday (June 24).
The Shinnyo-en Foundation praised Shriver — whose father, Sargent Shriver, was a driving force behind the development of the Peace Corps — for raising awareness of the contributions of women to the state of California, working to end poverty and encouraging community service. Teacher Nan Peterson received the Pathfinders to Peace Prize for incorporating the principles of Shinnyo-en's "Six Billion Paths to Peace" Project into her classroom curriculum.
Back in the summer of 1965, Birgeneau joined six of his fellow students at Yale University to teach at the Southern Teachers Program at Benedict College in South Carolina and to perform civil rights work there, and he has continued on that path.
Since assuming leadership of UC Berkeley, recognized as the nation's leading public research and teaching university, Birgeneau has established a vice chancellor's office for equity and inclusion and has supported proposals to increase financial aid for financially disadvantaged students. He also has been a strong advocate for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, proposed federal legislation to help young undocumented, immigrant students pursue higher education.
"Rather than viewing peace as something we hope to bring about some day, we see it as something that can be lived each day," explained Haru Inouye, chief executive officer of the Shinnyo-en Foundation.
For more information about the awards, contact the Shinnyo-en Foundation at (415) 661-4343.