My friend's cousin just graduated from Cal this summer. I asked him if he knew anything about Chancellor Tien. I also asked if he knew anything about the current Chancellor. Same response.
As tearful as it is to think it's been a generation since he presided over our campus, it's sadder that today marks a day where he was taken from us too soon.
My time at Cal overlapped Tien's as Chancellor. I first became acquainted with him probably the standard way all wide eyed freshmen did seeing him lead cheers at football and basketball games. He was quite a juxtaposition from the sports he was frequenting. He was short, always wore a suit and was weighted down with his coke bottle sized glasses. There was something of a teddy bear quality that endeared him to everybody as this little man would lead us into a "Go Bears" with trouble pronouncing the "r".
But there was so much more about this man. He cared. He really cared. And he really cared about Cal. Everything about Cal.
One late night as I was walking home with my roommate from architecture studio, Tien came out of Doe and joined us on our walk. He asked about what we were studying and whether we were getting enough rest. Then as he approached his car(rockstar parking), he insisted that he would drive us home. Nevermind that it was almost eleven o'clock and he seemed worn out from the fundraiser he was just at, no was an unacceptable answer. It was a great car ride, but my biggest regret was having eaten two hours earlier turning down his offer of having dinner at his house.
These stories are not just unique to me. Another roommate was studying late for finals at Moffitt when he got a tap on his shoulder as he started to rest his eyes. It was Tien. We wanted to ask if he was okay. Then he asked if there was anything he could do. "Keep the library open later?" For the remainder of finals, the library was kept open twenty four hours.
Even after his resignation, he kept his heart at Cal by returning back to the engineering department until his stroke in 2001.
Chancellor's Tien caring and commitment was an important learning experience to this impressionable young man. He is and will forever be missed.