Tribute to Tien’s legacy marks his retirement

By Karen Holtermann, Public Affairs

10 July 2002 | Admirers from around the world paid tribute to former Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien on June 22 at a day-long retirement tribute that celebrated his contributions over 43 years to research and education, but also the boundless enthusiasm, optimism and energy he brought to Berkeley.

Tien did not attend the event, but it was videotaped for him and webcast live all day.

Speakers included former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, National Science Foundation Director Rita R. Colwell, UC President Richard C. Atkinson, Chancellor Robert Berdahl and many former students and colleagues. Some 200 guests, including Tien’s wife Di-Hwa and their three children, were on hand to celebrate his life work.

Tien, 66, a University Professor emeritus and professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, stepped down after seven years as chancellor in 1997. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in September 2000 and suffered a debilitating stroke during surgery to remove it. He retired from his many duties on June 30, 2001.

Chancellor Berdahl lauded Tien as “an integral part of this university’s excellence and such a powerful advocate of its interests.” He praised Tien’s tireless advocacy of affirmative action and accessibility, his skill in shepherding the campus through its toughest budgetary times, and his success in making UC Berkeley more international in its outlook and programs.

Berdahl awarded Tien the Berkeley Citation, the campus’s highest honor for a retiring faculty member.

The symposium, held at the Bechtel Engineering Center, featured a morning session on Tien’s research contributions in heat transfer, ranging from work on nuclear reactor safety to the study of almost invisible micro- and nano-devices.

“I came this morning to learn a little bit about heat transfer, but what I learned was the profound affection his 60-plus Ph.D. students have for Chang-Lin,” said William Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering. “It was the most touching outpouring of affection that I’ve seen in a long time.”

An afternoon of talks about his legacy to education and society followed, with many recalling his creativity in working to keep UC accessible to all qualified students after the Regents, and later California voters, banned affirmative action in admissions.

“He had a commitment to excellence and diversity and a fervent belief that they are inexorably linked,” said President Atkinson. “His Berkeley Pledge became a beacon for young people throughout the state of California who were interested in going on to the University of California.”

Former Secretary Riley said Tien’s Berkeley Pledge (now School/University Partnerships) was his own model for creating a national program to help young students get to college. The program is now active in 46 states.

Atkinson also recalled Tien’s special connection with Berkeley undergraduates. “He has been a familiar figure to students, an effervescent sideline presence, a visitor to libraries during finals, bringing cookies and encouragement to students, a move-in day greeter — he made the campus a wonderful place for students,” said Atkinson.


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Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
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