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UC Berkeley Press Release

Tien Center project reaches $42 million goal; construction set to begin on new East Asian library next year

– Thanks to a recent $500,000 gift, the University of California, Berkeley has reached its $42 million fundraising goal to construct the Chang-Lin Tien Center for East Asian Studies/C.V. Starr East Asian Library.

The donation from Lister Chang, a UC Berkeley alumnus, and his wife, Christina, follows the April 23 site dedication for what will be a state-of-the-art facility located next to Memorial Glade and facing Doe Library.

The new center will create a world-class home for the campus's renowned East Asian Library and, ultimately, for its East Asian studies programs. Construction on the new library building is scheduled to begin next year and be completed in 2007.

Lister Chang, a resident of Hong Kong who serves on the UC Berkeley Foundation Board of Trustees, described the Tien Center as a project "close to the hearts of myself and my wife, Christina. To us the center will symbolize the contribution Cal has made over the years in providing a first-class education to thousands of people from Asia."

Chang's pledge and the milestone it marked for the project first proposed in the late 1980s cap a fundraising campaign that had pulled into the final stretch this spring when it received a $1 million donation from Silicon Valley businessman Saul Yeung, also a UC Berkeley alumnus.

Noting the financial pressure currently facing the state-funded campus, Chang said he and his wife were "honored to provide the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle to a great project dedicated to a great man on the eve of retirement of another great Cal chancellor, Robert Berdahl."

"We are deeply grateful to the Changs and to all of the more than 1,200 other donors from the United States and throughout the world whose generosity has helped to make this wonderful project a reality," said Berdahl.

The new center will honor the late Chancellor Tien, a distinguished engineer and scholar whose professional career spanned more than 40 years at UC Berkeley. When he was appointed chancellor in 1990 he became the first Asian American to head a major American research university. Tien died in October 2002 at the age of 67.

The new library will be named for the late Cornelius Vander Starr, whose foundation made the lead gift for the library and became pivotal in the success of the project. Starr, who died in 1968, was a UC Berkeley student early in the last century and founded the American International Group, Inc., now one of the largest international underwriters of commercial insurance.

The Starr Library will be the first free-standing building dedicated to East Asian collections in the United States and "epitomizes the best of what Berkeley can offer," said Peter Zhou, director of the East Asian Library.

With more than 800,000 volumes, the campus's East Asian Library ranks as one of the three largest collections of its kind outside of Asia and includes tens of thousands of rare books and treasured artifacts that date back more than 1,000 years. In recent decades, the collection has outgrown its space, forcing librarians to house more than half of the holdings off campus and to scatter the other half among three campus locations.

The new library will unite the collections. The building is being designed by internationally acclaimed architects Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates. Their widely known projects include Feinberg Hall at Princeton University, which was named by Time magazine as the best building of 1986, and the American Folk Art Museum in New York, which won the prize for the best new building in the 2002 World Architecture Awards competition.

Features of the new library will include a 6,000-square-foot reading room, a rare book vault, an art history seminar room, group study spaces, and an electronic media research area.

Each year, more than 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley enroll in some 200 courses that focus on the languages, history, political science and related aspects of East Asia.

UC Berkeley's programs in East Asian studies have been ranked first in the nation by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, the campus has international exchange agreements with a dozen institutions in Asia, and, at any given time, the campus hosts nearly 700 visiting faculty and scholars from that part of the world.