The Graduate…Or the Graduate Student?

Ursula's Zeta Tau Alpha portrait that appeared in the UC Berkeley yearbook covering the 1923-24 school year.

Ursula’s Zeta Tau Alpha portrait that appeared in the UC Berkeley yearbook covering the 1923-24 school year.

When we left Ursula’s story, she was a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, class of 1923. She had helped plan “Senior Week” festivities, and starred as “Ellen” in the Senior Extravaganza “But it Wasn’t.”

In looking through the university’s yearbook covering the college year after she was supposed to have graduated, I was puzzled to discover Ursula appearing again and listed as a senior on the Treble Clef Society’s membership page. When I flipped to the “Dramatics” section in that same yearbook, I found that a write-up of the “Matchmakers LTD” musical comedy presented by The Treble Clef Society referred to Ursula as a member of the class of ’24. (She played “Roddy’s aunt” and was deemed “delightful” in her part.)

Hmm. Why was Ursula at Berkeley for an extra year? Did something prevent her from graduating in 1923? I scrolled through the 1924 senior portraits, but Ursula’s photo was not among them. Then I turned to the “Sororities” section and did find Ursula’s portrait among the Zeta Tau Alpha sisters. However, the membership page listed her as a “Graduate.”

Ursula is listed as a "Graduate" on the Zeta Tau Alpha page of the 1925 "Blue and Gold" yearbook, which covered the 1923-24 academic year.

Ursula is listed as a “Graduate” on the Zeta Tau Alpha page of the 1925 “Blue and Gold” yearbook, which covered the 1923-24 academic year.

That finding, coupled with information I found in the 1922 University of California Register, led me to believe it’s possible she graduated in 1923, but that she stayed on to take further courses, and was misidentified as a senior in the yearbook. The Register noted that:

“Graduate students are such graduates of the University of California…as may be authorized to pursue advanced or special studies under the direction of a faculty. Such students may or may not be candidates for degrees.”

But then I found another document online suggesting she did not graduate in 1923. It was a program for the class of 1923’s “Senior Week” events, including the Senior Extravaganza, baccalaureate sermon, senior “pilgrimage,” senior ball and commencement. While Ursula was named as a principal in the Extravaganza and a committee member of the event (which we already knew), her name was absent from the “Roll Call” list of graduating seniors. Then again, this was not the original document—it had been transcribed in 2013. Perhaps the transcriptionist mistakenly omitted her name. Who knows?

With this conflicting evidence, I can’t say for certain when Ursula graduated from UC Berkeley, just that she was there for an extra year: 1923-1924. And I do know that the fall semester of her final year there got off to a blazing start. But that’s a story for next time…

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