This is a story about a remarkable Delta Chi and his firsthand accounts of helping break the color barrier in historically white fraternities. As an Asian-American on one of the most progressive campuses in North America during the early 1960s, Brother Lin’s story is a compelling one; his life is an example of the extraordinary men we have the privilege of calling “Brother” and the positive way his Delta Chi experience made a lasting impact on his professional success and personal relationships.
By: Peter Lane, Director of Development, The Delta Chi Educational Foundation
It was the spring of 1960 at the University of California, Berkeley, an epicenter of radical ideas in America. Delta Chi’s chapter merged with a local fraternity: Abracadabra (the origin of the odd name of Delta Chi’s chapter at Cal). Without knowing it, Paul Young Lin became not only a member of the first Associate Member class of the newly-merged group, but also one of the first non-white initiates on campus and in all of Delta Chi.
“I was not an activist in any sense; went to school and got good grades,” Lin recalls of his experience. “I did not know at the time that it was a big deal. I am Chinese and was brought up in Berkeley; my father was a UC professor.”
In fact, Lin would not know anything about the significance of his race and pledging a historically white fraternity until a few years later when, as he recalls, a representative from Delta Chi’s Headquarters came to campus and congratulated Paul on his achievement.
“At that time, (race) played almost no part. I had no idea there was any prejudice or discrimination. In high school I was valedictorian, I ran track, and I never noticed there was any problem. When I joined Delta Chi I did not know there were any issues.”
As part of the research for a graduate paper in 2009, Ryan Barone, Colorado State 2007, determined that Lin was one of the first non-white members pictured and/or mentioned in The Quarterly. Barone’s research focused on historically white fraternities, specifically Delta Chi’s and Sigma Chi’s White Clauses in their Constitution and By-Laws regarding membership qualifications. Over the course of 37 pages, Barone chronicles the internal debates during the 1950s that took place in both organizations and the compromises that were reached.
Discussing his Delta Chi experience, Lin noted, “Basically I ended up being a leader and had no problem after that. I held just about every office in the chapter; “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”, and “E”.”
Lin was later surprised to learn of the contentious nature of his initiation.
“I found out afterwards that Abracadabra wanted to pledge me, but it only took one (person to vote no), and it turned out one member of Abracadabra (rejected) me. When Abracadabra and Delta Chi merged, this guy quit, and then I fit in with the rest of the Fraternity. It was at least a semester before I found out all of this stuff.”
Lin acknowledges that within Delta Chi, at Berkeley, and nationally, the politics of race were volatile beyond his awareness at the time.
He was born in Shanghai, China and moved to the United States when he was five years old. He grew up around success and around Berkeley. His father, T.Y. Lin, was a professor of civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, who went on to become a world-renowned structural engineer. He pioneered prestressed concrete, founded his own structural engineering company, and won the National Medal of Science presented by President Ronald Reagan.
Lin credits Delta Chi for learning important social and leadership qualities, which contributed to his successful career. However, the most important thing that happened through his fraternity experience was meeting his wife, Lois, at a chapter social event. They dated steadily through college and were married a year after she graduated and after Lin received his master’s degree. They’ve been married for 51 years and have three children and six grandchildren.
After receiving his BSEE and MSEE, Lin went on to have a career in Electrical Engineering. He initially worked for Watkins-Johnson (W-J) and other companies as an engineer designing microwave surveillance receiver systems. He then taught college, technical courses at the College of San Mateo, and rose to Director of the Technology Division, leaping more senior professors due to his style and approach. Lin had a knack for teaching and motivating others. In 1981, he completed and published a 700-page textbook, Essentials of Electric Circuits, designed for the first-year electronics student.
Having acquired important management skills as a college administrator, he returned to W-J as a manager and advanced to the position of Vice President in six years. While at W-J, he designed a management training course, which garnered the attention of Fortune magazine. Later, he lectured on management strategies at Intel Corporation and Hewlett Packard’s management seminar. Lin developed several management courses; one of his favorite tactics for engaging his students, “Do you really want to be a Manager?” often sparked some of the best discussions.
Lin remains in contact with his Delta Chi little brother, Brian Austin.
“He was the best man at our wedding,” Lin recalls. Other brothers he stays in contact with are Jim White, Wayne Spruce, Steve Bilyeu, Ray Grinsell, Tom Alexander, and Jim Smith. In 2014, he organized and hosted a 50-year reunion at his home in Palo Alto, California.
He credits his experience in Delta Chi, learning social and business skills, leadership opportunities, and campus engagement with much of the success he had in his professional career. Likewise, both Lin and his wife Lois credit Delta Chi for introducing them, which has led to lifelong happiness. Now in retirement, Lin has time to reflect on the things that matter most.
“I have so much to thank Delta Chi for; I’m ready to give back to the organization that gave so much to me.”
To read more about Paul Lin’s career achievements, please visit www.dcef.com, which includes Lin’s Do you really want to be a Manager questionnaire. To see Lin’s article in the Quarterly, check out the Quarterly online.