UC Berkeley News


Campus dedicates site for Tien Center

28 April 2004


One of several Tien family members in attendance at the site dedication for the planned Chang-LinTien Center for East Asian Studies gathered oranges to offer the lion dancer, to assure a “sweet” undertaking.
Peg Skorpinski photo

As a ceremonial Chinese lion dancer accepted gifts of oranges from the crowd to “sweeten” the occasion and the undertaking, the Berkeley campus dedicated the site for the new Chang-Lin Tien Center for East Asian Studies at a colorful event on Friday, April 23.

The dedication, recognizing donors and celebrating the planned new center and its C.V. Starr East Asian Library, culminated in a ceremony on the steps of Doe Library. A rendering of the center on translucent fabric stretched across the steps, giving visitors a chance to imagine the new Tien Center on its site across Memorial Glade and adjacent to Haviland Hall, on what is known as Observatory Hill.

“This day has been a long time coming,” Chancellor Robert Berdahl told the assembled donors, faculty, and campus staff and officials. “This project has been a part of my entire time as chancellor,” he said, noting the long efforts of the campus and donors to complete fundraising for the ambitious project in tough economic times.

Construction of the center and its library will be funded entirely by private contributions — there have been 1,497 donations to the project to date, which together have raised $41.5 million of the $42-million goal for the new building.

The new center, named in honor of Berkeley’s late Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien, who died in October 2002, will bring together the campus’s East Asian scholars and programs, plus its nearly unmatched collection of scholarly treasures in the East Asian Library. The library will be named for Cornelius Vander Starr, a Berkeley student in the early 1900s who founded American International Group, Inc. (AIG), an international insurance and financial services company. The C.V. Starr Foundation donated the lead gift for the library.

Chancellor Berdahl, who recently told the Berkeleyan that Memorial Glade is his favorite campus spot, told the crowd that the Tien Center will create a special campus open space bordered by libraries, with an atmosphere and feel that contrasts well with Sproul Plaza.

“Sproul is a lively place where ideas are contested, but this is a different kind of open space — this is a contemplative space that is a counterpoint to busy and active Sproul Plaza,” he said. “Together, these spaces frame the campus.”

Among the guests at the event were Chancellor Tien’s wife, Di-Hwa; his children, Norman, Phyllis, and Christine; and his grandchildren. Florence Davis, president of the Starr Foundation, was also on hand for the occasion, along with dozens of other major donors to the project.

Japanese koto music, Korean drummers, and the Chinese lion dancer gave the event a colorful, festive flair.

For more on the Tien Center and Starr Library, see tiencenter.berkeley.edu; for more on Chang-Lin Tien and his legacy, see berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2002/10/tien.html