In his Alumni Day lecture Feb. 26, Woodrow Wilson Award winner and federal judge Denny Chin ’75 discussed his reverence for the law and examined some of the memorable cases he had presided over in more than 16 years on the bench. But the most poignant part of his talk was the gratitude he expressed for the man who paved the way for his family’s American success story: his paternal grandfather, Chin Doo Teung.
The elder Chin worked as a waiter in New York City’s Chinatown, sending money back to Hong Kong each month and longing for the day that he could bring his wife and child to the United States. He became a U.S. citizen in 1947, more than three decades after he first traveled to America. His grandson eventually would serve as a federal district judge in the courthouse where he took the oath of allegiance.
“Years later, I would administer the same oath to new citizens,” said Chin, now a federal appeals court judge. “And I would always tell them about my grandfather.”
The day’s other top alumni honoree, James Madison Medalist Elaine Fuchs *77, expressed similar appreciation for those who helped her launch a groundbreaking career in the study of skin stem cells. At Princeton, Fuchs said, she was given “the chance to demonstrate whether I had what it takes” as part of a small group of women pursuing graduate studies in the biology department. She saluted the tight-knit community of women scientists, at Princeton and elsewhere, who “developed friendship and inspiration for each other.”
The morning lectures by Fuchs and Chin, held in Richardson Auditorium, were among the activities that drew hundreds of graduates to campus to honor alumni and top students and to hear about topics ranging from social networking to the future of North Korea. Alumni recalled deceased friends and teachers at the moving Service of Remembrance, honored volunteers at the annual luncheon in Jadwin Gym, and heard an update on fundraising (see page 9). For families with young children, there was the always-popular chemistry demonstration by lecturer Kathryn Wagner and her students; for those with older children, a talk by Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye about applying to college.
In a morning keynote address, Fuchs, a renowned cell biologist at Rockefeller University and 2009 National Medal of Science honoree, spoke about skin — her area of expertise. Skin is fascinating to study, Fuchs said, because it is undergoing constant turnover, made possible by stem cells. The process could hold clues for ways to “reprogram” cells to generate different types of cells in the body.
Chin, who joined the federal bench in 1994, spoke about a dozen notable cases from his time as a federal judge for the Southern District of New York. In one case, Chin had to evaluate Listerine’s claim that the mouthwash was clinically proven to be as effective as floss. One dentist called as an expert witness told the court that the benefits of floss were a myth. “I asked, ‘Do you still floss?’ ” Chin recalled. “He said, ‘Yes.’ ... So I determined it was false advertising.”
Chin also explained his 2009 decision to sentence Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison, a move that some critics viewed as pandering to public sentiment. “I imposed that sentence because I thought the fraud was egregious, the breach of trust was massive, and I thought the symbolism was very important,” Chin said.
“ We are spending $1.6 billion a year on border enforcement that has no effect on the rate of
in-migration and reduces the rate of out-migration. ... If Congress’ goal was to reduce migration to the United States, it has backfired. ” — Sociology and Woodrow Wilson School professor Douglas S. Massey *78, lecturing about undocumented migration
“ Just a few days before Christmas, America almost went to war for a second time on the Korean peninsula. We were that close. ... I am more pessimistic than I have ever been about our prospects of putting this problem back in the box. ” — Evans Revere ’76 *94, Woodrow Wilson School diplomat-in-residence, lecturing about the challenge
of “denuclearizing” North Korea
“ I have four kids, and they communicate this way. ... I’m up to speed with technology in the business sense, but not on the communication angle, and I just want to leap from the 20th to the 21st century. ” — Charles Rockey ’57, at a session on social networking
“ When flowers are brought forward by class representatives and collated into a single memorial wreath on a bed of Princeton ivy, I think that I am watching Living Princeton process before me. The Princeton of the ’20s to the 21st century — we see across the lineup the admission of women, and of people of ever-broader nationalities, races, ethnicities, abilities, religions. ... We are still who we have been, and we are in the process of becoming who we really are. ” — Alison Boden, dean of the chapel, at the Service of Remembrance
“ Can I just say how thrilled I am to accept this award named after an alumnus named Moses? ” — Alex Rosen ’11, co-winner of the Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize
“ I’ve learned that this community is truly dedicated to making each Princeton student feel as if the University was made for them. ” — Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux ’11, co-winner of the Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize