Paying It Back by Paying It Forward

Grateful for their Harvard journeys, Edwin Lin AB ’97 and his brother,
Alfred AB ’94, are honoring their late mother’s hard work and sacrifice by establishing undergraduate scholarships in her name

Edwin and Alfred Lin with their mother in front of the statue of John Harvard in Harvard Yard

Paying It Back by Paying It Forward

Edwin Lin AB ’97 doesn’t remember posing in front of the John Harvard statue when he and his brother were children, but he’s always known that his parents hoped he and Alfred AB ’94 would go to Harvard. For Lin and his family, Harvard was part of their dream for a better future—a dream reflected in every carefully saved tuition check that he found among his mother’s things after she passed away in 2023.

It’s one of the reasons why he gives back to Harvard, including providing support for financial aid and serving as a volunteer for the Harvard College Fund Executive Committee. He and his brother recently made a joint gift to establish an endowed undergraduate scholarship fund named for their mother, Shu-Nuan.

“Our mother always felt that our most important duty to the world is to leave a lasting impact. She did her part as a mother by emphasizing the importance of education, but we wanted to make sure that she will be remembered for impacting the world,” says Lin. “Fully funding well-deserving students’ paths through college in perpetuity achieves the wishes she would have wanted. We actually did talk to her about these scholarships before she left us, and she was incredibly supportive.”


Edwin Lin AB ’97

Edwin Lin AB '97

Q: Can you share a bit about your journey to Harvard?

A: 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 school 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.

Q: How has Harvard shaped your life?

A: Harvard changed my life and left an indelible 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 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.

Q: How has that inspired you to give back as a donor and volunteer?

A: 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 part of 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.

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

A: I love walking through the gates of Harvard Yard, 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.