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Subject: Chang-Lin Tien, 67, Affirmative-Action Steward at Berkeley

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Date Posted: October 31, 2002 6:00:07 EDT

Chang-Lin Tien, the chancellor of the University of California from 1990 to 1997 and an outspoken advocate of affirmative action, died on Tuesday at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Redwood City, Calif. He was 67 and lived in Hillsborough, Calif.

Dr. Tien learned in 2000 that he had a brain tumor and suffered a severe stroke during a diagnostic test; he never regained his health, the university said.

Born in China, Dr. Tien was the first Asian-American to head a major research university in the United States. When he was appointed, the Berkeley campus faced a federal investigation of possible racial bias in admissions because it had turned away some white students with higher grades and test scores than some of the black and Hispanic students it had accepted.

The investigators concluded in 1996, after seven years, that Berkeley's affirmative-action program did not discriminate against white students. But by then, the University of California Regents had voted to end the program.

In an essay in The New York Times in 1996, Dr. Tien said his strong aversion to racism and support for affirmative action had grown out of his experiences as a University of Louisville graduate student in 1956. He said that on his first bus ride in the South he noticed that the black people were all seated in the back and the white people in the front.

"I didn't know where I belonged," he wrote, "so for a long time I stood near the driver. Finally, he told me to sit down in the front, and I did. I didn't take another bus ride for a whole year. I would walk an hour to avoid that."

He sometimes recalled how a Louisville professor he worked for repeatedly addressed him as "Chinaman" and how in the 1950's and 1960's he had run into restrictions against "Orientals and Negroes" in Berkeley's housing market.

He said serious problems remained and so did the need for affirmative action.

"America has come a long way since the days of Jim Crow segregation," he wrote in 1996. "It would be a tragedy if our nation's colleges and universities slipped backward now, denying access to talented but disadvantaged youth and eroding the diversity that helps to prepare leaders."

Dr. Tien was born in Wuhan, China, in 1935. In 1949, his family fled the Communist government for Taiwan, where he completed college. He came to the United States as a penniless 21-year-old to study, first in Louisville and then at Princeton, where he earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 1959. He joined the faculty at Berkeley, where he earned a Distinguished Teaching Award.

His management career started as chairman of Berkeley's mechanical engineering department; he was promoted to vice chancellor for research, and then became executive vice chancellor at the University of California at Irvine.

When he became Berkeley's chancellor, the state of California was struggling financially, and Berkeley lost about $70 million in state money over four years, an 18 percent cut. Early retirement incentives also prompted a quarter of the faculty members to retire. Dr. Tien recruited young professors and sought donations to replace the state money. Under his leadership the campus raised nearly $1 billion.

"It's not a matter of whether we can survive," he said in 1993, "it's a matter of being excellent or mediocre."

During his tenure, Berkeley professors won a Nobel prize and other awards; a professor, Robert Hass, was named American poet laureate; and a National Research Council assessment showed that most of Berkeley's graduate programs ranked among the top 10 in their fields.

As chancellor, he continued to lead a research laboratory and guide graduate students, taking them out for pizza and beer. He also tried to improve undergraduate education. In 1992, Berkeley introduced freshman seminars where students could meet professors in small classes.

An expert in thermal sciences and engineering, Dr. Tien advised the United States government on insulating tiles for its space shuttle and on the nuclear reactor problems at Three Mile Island, Pa. He also took an active interest in Asia and helped found the Committee of 100, a group of Chinese-Americans who worked for better relations with China.

Dr. Tien is survived by his wife, Di-Hwa, of Hillsborough; a son, Norman, a professor at the University of California at Davis; and two daughters: Phyllis, a doctor at the University of California at San Francisco, and Christine, the deputy city manager of Stockton, Calif. He is also survived by four grandchildren.

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