Kathleen Whitney ‘60

I am an alumna of the Anna Head School in Berkeley (1960), and of U.C. Berkeley (1965).  The old Anna Head buildings are very special and beautiful historic buildings.  The school was also significant as one of the few all girls' schools in the area.  After I graduated from Heads, as we called it, I had a very thorough education in the Humanities in college (two years at Scripps College and two at U.C. Berkeley) and had to write a lot of research papers, which often kept me up all night.  But I never worked so hard in college as I did at Heads, especially during my senior year.  That year I spent the entire spring break, as did most of my friends, either at the OPL (Oakland Public Library) or the BPL (Berkeley Public Library).  We were writing papers for both our Senior English class and our U.S. History class, taught by our headmaster, the marvelous Mr. Dan Dewey.  I wrote my paper on McCarthyism, about Senator Joe McCarthy and his anticommunist shenanigans and all the damage they wrought.  I worked very hard on it and read several books and many articles.

My mother, Deborah Tolman Whitney, also went to Heads, class of 1935.  If she were alive today, she would absolutely agree that those charming old buildings should be saved.  There is nothing that I have seen on the Cal campus as stunning as the old Heads Chapel (auditorium).  I know the Cal architecture department is well-renowned, and that the University would never consider tearing down a unique and irreplaceable example of Queen Anne/Arts & Crafts architecture if it were on the Cal campus.  I have so many fond memories of my days at Heads: graduation especially.  We were so beautiful in our long white dresses, each of us holding a bouquets of red roses, walking out of Chapel to the strains of Beethoven's Ode to Joy, and then filing slowing through the lovely rose garden, freshmen standing on the balcony of what was then the boarding department, throwing rose petals down on us....you just couldn't do that in a new building.  I also remember laughing uproariously as we acted out scenes from Shakespeare's The Tempest in that same magical rose garden.  We especially loved to do Caliban, Trinculo and Stefano.  I have fond memories of putting on satirical skits in the Chapel.  Other memories I cherish are the Maypole dance on the lawn, midmorning cider and cookies in the quad, having tea and cookies in the Boarding Department dining room with our parents once a year, (I once ate 14 cookies!), reveling in finally being able to occupy the senior porch, and once, while working on Nods and Becks, the yearbook, sneaking off to explore some of the quirky little warrens on the upper floors.

After I graduated from U.C. Berkeley I spent two years in the Peace Corps working at a secondary school in Nigeria, where I taught French, and volleyball, as well as put on a play by Wole Soyinka, for which we won a prize. I also taught ESL in the village and worked, during school vacations, in a mental hospital.  I left Nigeria a little bit early because of the Biafran Civil War.  I came back to the East Bay and taught 6th grade in West Oakland.  Then I headed overseas again and travelled all the way to Europe (including Lapland and Wales), the Sahara Desert, Afghanistan (where I walked on the giant Buddhas at Bamian), India, the Seychelle Islands and East Africa, all without getting on an airplane!  Eventually, I settled down in Oakland and mainly taught ESL to adults.  I also got married and had children, not necessarily in that order.  One of my passions is painting.

But back to U.C. Berkeley:  My grandfather was Edward Tolman, founder of the Psychology Department at U.C. Berkeley and leader of the faculty that refused to sign the extra loyalty oath in the fifties, and who were fired (later to be hired back and given honorary degrees!)  When I was a child, he and my grandmother often took me to dinner at the Women's Faculty Club.  Such a treat!  I loved that beautiful building and lovely setting.  I later loved being a student at Cal.  I had some wonderful professors and took a lot of very interesting classes.  It was fascinating to be a student during the Free Speech Movement and witness how Sproul Plaza became the perfect place for that to play itself out.  The Cal campus is gorgeous.  Living just over the Oakland line, I delight in walking through it to this day.  It is spectacularly laid out; it has beautiful trees; it has the creek, and it has so many lovely old buildings like Wheeler Hall, South Hall the faculty clubs, the old library building, the Hearst Gymnasium the Campanile and so many others.  In Europe they don't raze beautiful old buildings.  They preserve them.  Please preserve Anna Heads as you have preserved those other buildings.  It's what civilized institutions do.

Kathleen Whitney