Edwin T. Lin '97
Applied Mathematics concentrator
Quincy House

Edwin Lin doesn’t remember posing in front of the John Harvard statue when he and his brother were children. But he’s always known his parents hoped he and Alfred ’94 would go to Harvard. For Lin and his family, Harvard was part of their American dream. And it was one for which he saw every carefully saved receipt when he looked through his mother’s things after she passed away this summer. It’s one of the reasons why he gives back to Harvard and serves as a volunteer for the Harvard College Fund Executive Committee.

Edwin Lin '97 with his mother, Shu-Nuan Lin, and his brother, Alfred '94, in front of the John Harvard statue
Edwin Lin '97 with his mother, Shu-Nuan Lin, and his brother, Alfred '94, in front of the John Harvard statue

Since Lin’s College days, he’s led a steady career in finance, working for Citadel for more than a decade. He and his wife live in New York City with their two sons, ages 12 and 14, and he makes time to regularly go back to Harvard whenever he can. Lin shares why his College experiences remain so important to him and how he hopes to help the next generation of students in the Yard.    

Can you share a bit about your journey to Harvard?  

We came to the United States from Taiwan in the late seventies. I was the younger son, so that path was a little easier for me. I was three or four years old, so when you don’t speak English, it’s really not a big deal. You can just watch TV and figure it out. But my brother Alfred was seven and in class learning English on the fly. It was tough, but he navigated it so well—I was forever inspired by what he was able to overcome at such a young age.

My parents espoused the view that scholarship was incredibly important, that you have to be curious, and you have to look to solve real-world problems. It was very important to my parents that Harvard was a part of my life, so my brother and I worked really hard to get into a public specialized high school in New York. And then I followed my brother to Harvard. 

How do you think going to Harvard has shaped your life?  

Harvard is one of the places that changed my life and left an incredible impact on everything that subsequently followed. When my brother and I were at Harvard, it became a springboard for so many things.

My mom recently passed away, and when I was going through the house, I discovered that she kept a copy of every single check she wrote to Harvard. My parents saved on a lot of things to remind us of how we got to traverse this path. We lived the American dream, but all that hard work started with my parents providing the necessary resources for my brother and me. 

You’ve remained deeply involved as a volunteer and donor. How has that inspired you to give back?   

I remember how difficult it was for our family, so I give to support financial aid. I want to help make it easier for the next generation of students. I am so motivated by the students these days. Harvard is producing some incredible leaders of the future.  

Volunteering also provides me a way to be a spectator to the community. I get so much out of going back. I really miss it, so I want to know what happens and what’s changing, even down to the small things.   

Where do you usually go when you’re back on campus?  

I love walking through the gates, passing by the libraries, and going into the Science Center where I spent so much time. I get this feeling of safety in some ways. I walk through those gates and feel at home.

So much has changed in the Square since I was there. But looking for old spots and seeing what changed is kind of exciting for me. As someone who is of Chinese descent, when I was in school and was feeling homesick, I would search out the Chinese food truck. I did look for it on a recent trip as a mission to find something that I remember. It was almost like a scavenger hunt.   

What do you think is so special about the Harvard community? 

So many good memories. I was recently thinking of the time my roommate Jeff Lee '97 and I decided we had to eat at the Union Oyster House before we graduated. We figured we couldn’t leave without eating at Boston's oldest restaurant. I love these kinds of spur-of-the-moment memories. I don’t see Jeff all that often nowadays, but when we do, I can pick up right where we left off. I think one of the benefits of going to school and living with some people for several years is that you basically become family.   

What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?

I’m a passionate baseball dad and have been to a hundred of my son's games this year. I always hope they win because it’s a tough drive back when they lose. But the losses also build character. 

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