Auburn graduate school paves the path for an American Dream

By Lauren Winton

Published: Mar 16, 2021 9:05:00 AM

Chin Fa Lin 1968 Chin Fa Lin 1968

In a small agricultural town in Taiwan, a family of seven struggled through World War II. The second youngest of five, Chin Fa Lin was in middle school when some of his siblings were called off to serve. The pressure was great for him to stay at home and help with the family farm. But Lin’s dreams were greater.

“My father always loved math and science. He loved school,” said Jeannie Chopra, Lin’s daughter. “When his siblings left for war, he tested into a technical middle school and continued to a technical high school.”

After high school, Lin worked part-time with Taiwan Power, which sponsored him through his undergraduate studies in engineering. He worked for several years with the company, got married and started a family.

“I’m not sure where his American Dream started,” Chopra said, “but he always wanted to come to the United States.”

Lin knew a transition to the United States would not be easy – or cheap. But he forged ahead, and when he was 34, he decided to apply to two graduate schools in the U.S. One of those schools was Auburn University.

“I was a year old at the time, and my older sister was 4,” Chopra said. “Dad knew of some people who had come to Auburn – there was a pretty good Taiwanese community at the time – and so he saved up to travel to the U.S. to visit.”

With just one visit, Lin was sold. He met several professors and fellow international students, and he loved it. Lin told his family there was, “just something about Auburn.” So, with the family back home in Taiwan, Lin worked hard to complete his master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He graduated in 1968. And when the time was right, the rest of the family moved to the U.S. with him.

“After he graduated, he got a job in Tennessee, and he brought me, my sister and my mom to the States from Taiwan. My little sister was born in Tennessee,” Chopra said.  Lin Family

The family moved across the country, eventually settling in California, where Lin lives now. As the family grew and moved, they never had the chance to come back to campus.

“I’ve actually never been to Auburn,” said Chopra. “I’ve always wanted to visit. Dad talks about his time there with such fond memories. He always said the people were so nice and welcoming to him.”

On Lin’s 80th birthday, Chopra wanted to surprise her dad with a special gift. She and her husband established the Chin F. Lin Endowed Scholarship in mechanical engineering. After the Virtual Evening of Thanks on Feb. 5, Chopra decided to add to the endowment.

“It was such a special time for my father that we wanted to commemorate it with a scholarship. He was so excited about the scholarship when we told him about it. He is always excited to help others,” Chopra said.

Chopra said that even though her father never traveled back to Auburn, the university found a special place in his heart. Auburn was where Lin took his first steps toward his American Dream. And it was the stepping stone that enabled him to bring and grow his family in the United States.

“He has always been fascinated with the eagle,” Chopra said. “And then he would tell us about ‘War Eagle!’ ‘That’s the greeting!’ he would say.”

The Chopras’ generosity helped solidify a legacy of courage, determination and the American Dream. Lin and his wife still live in California, but Chopra hopes that one day the family will wander down to the Plains and set foot on the first place Lin called home in America.

Media Contact: Lauren Winton, lmw0090@auburn.edu, 334.844.5519

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