never really dreamed I could be chancellor of a
major university. I feel it is now my responsibility
to uphold the American dream for everyone."
memorial service: Even in death, Chang-Lin Tien illuminates
15 November 2002
By Bonnie Azab Powell, Public Affairs
— Friends, family and colleagues of Chang-Lin Tien packed
Zellerbach Hall on November 14 for a memorial service honoring
the beloved former chancellor. Listening to the many heartfelt
tributes, even those who never met him knew that this perpetual
motion machine not only advanced UC Berkeley's spirit and opportunity,
but was the finest example of them.
service mixed sadness and humor as the speakers painted a vivid
portrait of a great leader, world-class researcher, savvy strategist,
inspiring mentor, loyal friend, demanding teacher, proud Asian
American and doting father, all rolled into one man.
does it cease to amaze us, the number of lives that he touched,"
said Tien's son, Norman, looking out with wonder at the huge
crowd. Added Norman's young son Christopher, peeking over the
top of the Zellerbach podium, "A lot of people knew him.
It was kind of neat that he was so famous. His picture was even
in my social studies book."
speaker remarked on Tien's appetite for activity, whether scholarship,
fund-raising or cheering on the Golden Bears. "Chang-Lin
Tien burst into our consciousness like a bolt of lightning —
bright, electric, full of energy," said Chancellor Robert
J. Berdahl. Tien's daughter Phyllis claimed that she never saw
her father sleep — he regularly worked 12-hour days —
although she often caught him snoring in the movie theater.
"I think that was the only time he could catch up on his
rest," she laughed.
"He knew full well that a leader can never get tired, never
get down, but must always bring hope," said Dan Mote, Tien's
second-in-command for several Berkeley posts and now the president
of the University of Maryland.
Tien was an irrepressible optimist even in the face of adversity.
"He will forever be remembered for his ringing challenge,
'In crisis there is opportunity,'" said Berdahl, recalling
how Tien met UC Berkeley's state budget crises of the early
1990s with steadfast determination to find the money elsewhere.
attitude applied equally to Tien's personal circumstances: as
a young immigrant from Taiwan in the U.S. on a student visa,
he received a letter saying he might have to wait 142 years
to get a more permanent visa. When Tien told this story, Berdahl
recalled, he always laughed and said, "They thought this
would discourage me, but it just gave me an incentive to live
often and loved much
and family recalled Tien's devotion to his students, and how
Tien, an avid matchmaker, sported the widest smile of all at
the wedding of two of his graduate students. A man full of unabashed
exuberance, he once led a conga line dance through the kitchen
at a students' reception. He loved seafood (crabs in particular)
but spicy food above all. He would absolutely douse his soup
with pepper, marveled young Christopher Tien,
then "stir it up and put even more in."
Ernest Kuh, electrical engineering professor emeritus and dean
of Berkeley's College of Engineering when Tien was on the mechanical
engineering faculty, said that even as a young professor Tien
showed great organizational talent and the ability to get things
done. Kuh emphasized Tien's importance as an unofficial ambassador
to Taiwan and China and remarked that, although Tien's English-speaking
style may have occasioned some humor, his speeches in Chinese
were the epitome of eloquence and widely admired. As was Tien
himself: "Walking down the streets of Taipei with Chang-Lin
was like walking in Chicago with Michael Jordan," Mote
recalled. "People ran out of shops to greet him; all the
hotels tried to get him to stay with them."
closed with a Robert Louis Stevenson
poem, "That Man is a Success," which seemed tailor-made
Man is a Success
Who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;
Who has gained the respect
of intelligent men and the love of children;
Who has filled his niche
and accomplished his task;
Who leaves the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy or a perfect poem
or a rescued soul;
Who never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty
or failed to express it;
Who looked for the best in others
and gave the best he had.
Tien was devoted
to Berkeley and there is no doubt he left it better than he
found it, even down to the landscaping. As he walked through
the campus on the way to appointments, he would pick up trash.
"He loved this place," said his son, Norman. "It
was his home." Tien was a "true environmentalist,"
agreed daughter Christine Tien, before breaking into a smile.
"He never threw anything away. He always said,
'I can still wear that!'" His leather briefcase, for example,
was battered to the point of exhaustion, inspiring several replacements
as gifts. But Tien insisted it was fine; he just wrapped masking
tape around the handle again and again until the tape was two
inches thick, his daughter recounted.
doctoral student Rochard Buckius paid homage to Tien's teaching
gifts. "Each time he presented an idea it was with a sense
of discovery and enthusiasm. He always had a story that made
the ideas come to life. And this was engineering!" said
Buckius, who is now chair of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's
mechanical engineering department. Tien mentored more than 60
doctoral students, some even while he was chancellor, Buckius
noted. "Many of us have used the phrase that he was our
'academic father.' Learning to be a scholar from someone who
was the ultimate scholar — what a gift."
quoted several of his favorite "Tienisms" illustrating
the former chancellor's inspirational style: "He was forever
asking, 'Any new ideas?' and telling us 'Go to extremes,' 'Ideas
should be crazy enough to be rejected by your peers,' and 'Sometimes
the simple solutions have the greatest impact.' He would often
say 'You need total immersion,' and he meant it — he'd
also say 'You need to dream of your research while you sleep!'"
Concluded Richard Atkinson, president of the University of California,
"As a faculty member, he achieved the ideal balance of
teaching, research, and public service."
was simply "faster, smarter, better than everyone else,"
summarized Mote, after reciting a few of Tien's achievements
and "firsts" — such as racing through his Ph.D.
at Princeton in a record two years; at 26 becoming the youngest
recipient of Berkeley's Distinguished Teaching Award; and becoming
the first Asian American to head a major American research university.
"He was the complete strategist. He always knew where he
was going and exactly what steps it would take. He thought through
the consequences of every action."
Tien had extraordinary political instincts about what it would
take to be chancellor, continued Mote. Tien predicted that,
since he was a rather diminutive, glasses-wearing engineer,
Cal's legion of alums might question his support for athletics.
When he assumed the chancellorship after a brief stint at UC
Irvine, he quenched any such doubts with his passion and support
for the Golden Bears. Tien was famous for pacing the sidelines
at football games and showing up at even minor sports events.
He concluded every public address and many private conversations
with his signature staccato "Go Bears!"
Mote told the story of how in 1991, when he was Berkeley's vice
chancellor and the Golden Bears were playing in the Citrus Bowl
against Clemson University, he had the task of introducing then-chancellor
Tien at a football dinner. After hearing the way the football
players were being announced, he intoned into the microphone,
"Chang-Lin Tien: height 5 feet 5 inches, 145 pounds. Can
bench-press the Berkeley campus and the city of Berkeley to
After the dinner audience roared with laughter, Tien bounded
to the stage. "His first words were, 'I'm 5 feet SIX!'"
Mote recalled. "Once again he set me straight."
more somber, Mote told how Tien had always advised him that
it was important to keep an eye on the future, and not stay
in a job longer than you could continue learning from it. "He
believed that it was important to leave the party before everyone
starts looking at their watches," said Mote. When Tien
stepped down at age 62 from the post of chancellor, before he
was diagnosed with the brain tumor that ended his life, he had
immense opportunities ahead of him. "We all have to accept
that Chang-Lin Tien has left too early." There was a catch
in Mote's voice.
memorial service was punctuated with moving musical interludes,
from the Cal Jazz Choir opening with "We May Never Meet
Again" to Chi-Yuen Wang, professor of earth and planetary
science, who sang the otherworldly beautiful Chinese aria "How
Could I Not Miss Him" accompanied by physics professor
Raymond Chiao on piano.
the final speaker and a brief video showcasing Tien's life,
Berdahl played a clip of Tien's trademark sign-off, "Go
Bears!" Then, with a trumpet blast and pounding drums,
the Cal Marching Band poured into Zellerbach Hall. The audience
rose to its feet, clapping and cheering along to the "Fight
for California" — an electrifying close that captured
the living legacy of Chang-Lin Tien.