Radhika Kannan to Receive UC Berkeley’s University Medal


Radhika Kannan, an Indian American student at the University of California at Berkeley, was named the recipient of the University Medal, its top graduating honor. (UC Berkeley photo)

BERKELEY, Calif. — Radhika Kannan, who was recently named UC Berkeley’s top graduating senior and recipient of its University Medal, is determined to carry out a career plan she made with her mother, Geetanjali, who died suddenly and inexplicably at age 45 during Kannan’s junior year.

How the 21-year-old Kannan, an Indian American student, coped with the 2013 loss of her mother, who was her mentor and best friend, and then went on to graduate with the highest distinction in economics, conservation studies and a near-perfect GPA, is a marvel of personal fortitude and determination, according to a UC Berkeley press release.

“Her resolve to excel academically despite this blow, and to continue to provide emotional support for the rest of her family, truly reflects the intensity of Radhika’s will and the strength of her spirit,” wrote Kate O’Neill, an associate professor of environmental science, policy and management, in her letter recommending Kannan for the University Medal.

UC Berkeley’s University Medal honors outstanding scholarship, public service and strength of character, and comes with a $2,500 award. As this year’s recipient, Kannan will address thousands of her peers on May 16 at a commencement ceremony at Memorial Stadium. Her speech, she says, will touch on the unpredictability of life, a topic close to her heart.

“As a Cal grad, you really want to be prepared, but sometimes you just can’t be,” Kannan said in the press release. “Always know that your Cal family is there for you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

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