The son of a railroad worker, Earl Warren came from a family keeping a desperate finger hold on a working-class existence at the turn of the last century. Yet when he left high school in Bakersfield in 1908, there was no question where he was headed: to Berkeley and a free education at the University of California.
There he proved an indifferent student scholastically but an enthusiastic absorber of "the new life, the freedom, the companionship, the romance of the university," Warren recalled years later. "It was like being in wonderland."
No one could deny that one way or another, the education took: The graduate of UC Berkeley and Boalt Hall served as California attorney general, won three elections for governor, and during his nearly 16 years as chief justice of the United States led a Supreme Court that produced (among other decisions) that landmark of landmarks, Brown vs. Board of Education.
The writer Maxine Hong Kingston was born to Chinese immigrants who had settled in Stockton with their devotion to education intact. When college beckoned in 1958 the cost of attending UC Berkeley was $75 a semester, which for her was covered by a scholarship.