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Oakland Celebrates Mills All Week

(Photo by Chantelle Panackia)
(Photo by Chantelle Panackia)

Mills College will hold its 125th Commencement this year, and the significant anniversary will be marked by a week devoted to the college after Oakland mayor Jean Quan issued an official proclamation in April declaring May 12-18 “Mills College Week” in honor of the college’s chartering in 1885.

“The idea was proposed by Dawna Williams, our class treasurer,” said Aisha Gonzalez, president of the class of 2013. “With the help of the president’s office, primarily Renee Jadushlever, chief of staff and vice president of operations, we were able to reach out to the mayor.”

“When we first sat down and started planning Commencement last summer,” said Dawna Williams, “I knew I wanted to do something that had some level of fanfare — this is a big commencement year for us, a milestone year… why can’t we get a proclamation from the city?”

Initially,Williams had hoped for just a day — “Mills Day” — that would generate fanfare for her alma mater and her graduating class.

“For them to come back that it would be a whole week… that blew me out the door.” Williams said.

In the document, the proclamation opens in acknowledgment of the 125th Commencement and the students who will receive “the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a Mills College degree.”

The proclamation also makes note of Mills’ distinction as an innovator and leader in women’s education whose “educational leadership has been demonstrated for more than 160 years through a series of ‘firsts’” including being “the first women’s college west of the Rockies (1885)” and “the first business school in the West to advance women in business (2005).”

The proclamation was drafted by students, including Williams, but the content was largely generated by the mayor’s office, according to Jadushlever. Jadushlever and Williams also noted that they checked the numbers meticulously to ensure that everything was correct, and Williams added that they consulted with multiple sources for historical accuracy. While Mills was founded in 1852, it wasn’t until 1885 that the college was chartered.

The seed of Williams’ bid for mayoral recognition of Mills’ 125th year was a carving she spotted near the Seminary Gate, which reads “Depart here to use in life the joy and truth here found,” a line that Williams also added to the Senior Paint Wall. Williams and others sought the history of the carving in hopes that it could be tied in with the 125th Commencement. And while it is not as old as they had thought (it dates to 1926), the quotation was the inspiration behind Williams’ quest to make waves in celebration of her college and her classmates.