I went to Yale in the fall of 1969. It seemed like the best place, and I've never regretted it. My freshman year was the first year that women were admitted as undergraduates. We were at the boundary between the Old Yale and New Yale. The seniors remembered having to wear coats and ties for dinner - definitely Old Yale. We freshmen considered ourselves to belong to a the New Yale, including as we did, public school kids, minorities, and women.
Spring of 1970 was rather tumultuous. The University was practically shut down as a result of a student "strike" relating to the murder trial of Bobby Seale, a Black Panther leader. This particular issue culminated in a huge rally on May Day, in which many thousands of out-of-town demonstrators participated. It was pretty peaceful considering what might have happened. I remember my physics professor saying that if the University were burned down, we could have the exams outside, under the trees. Unless it rained. Then we'd have to postpone it. I heard a rumor that the National Guard had asked to set up machine guns on the roof of Calhoun College, overlooking the New Haven Green, so that could control the demonstrators, but that the Master of Calhoun had refused. Looking back on it, I doubt that the request was even made, but I remember believing it without question at the time. This gives some idea of the climate of the times. May Day was followed just a few days later by the Kent State killings. Things quieted down a lot after that year. That summer, my family moved to La Jolla, California, where my parents still live.
I was somewhat active in AASA, the Yale Asian American Student Association, which was founded my freshman year. It is still in existence. I remember organizing a recruitment trip to the Washington D.C. area to interview Asian American applicants. I also helped board up the windows of some New Haven Chinese restaurants to protect them from damage before the big May Day demonstations. A couple of Chinese restaurants and maybe a laundry were about all the Asian American community New Haven had in those days.
Me in the Pierson College tower, May 1972
The draft was on everyone's mind because of the Vietnam War. The first draft lottery was held my freshman year. That night the bells of the Yale Carillon played "You're in the Army Now." My number was 65, but I was able to keep my student deferment until I graduated, by which time the draft had ended.
My draft card.
While I liked the academics at Yale, I was a bit ambivalent about being recognized. I remember I considered turning down induction into Phi Beta Kappa, since "elitism" was frowned upon in those days. In the end I went to the induction ceremony, but wore blue jeans (my best ones) instead of coat and tie, in order to downplay its importance. I was outdone by one guy (the only other one not in coat and tie) who wore blue jeans with big holes in them, appeared to be stoned, and said "Thanks, man!" when he was given his certificate. I applied to graduate schools in physics and decided to go to Harvard.
I spent 6 weeks of the summer after graduation traveling around Europe. I went through England, Scotland, Holland, Germany, and Denmark, often hitchhiking and camping by the road. I don't think I ever had to pay more than $5 for a night's lodging. Stonehenge wasn't accessible by public transportation, so I hitchhiked and walked to get there.
Cambridge, England, summer 1973
For my last bit of vacation before going to Harvard for graduate school, I went on a backpacking trip in the Sierras with my dad.
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