Alumnus takes life one step at a time

Although Admiral Samuel Lin went on to work as the assistant to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and earned numerous awards for his work in public service, he said that he can’t pinpoint the highlights of his career because he doesn’t know what is yet to come.

Presented as Alumni of the Year last Thursday in Chapel, Lin, known to his classmates as "Sammy," graduated from Seattle Pacific College (SPC) in 1965 as a pre-med student with a degree in zoology. He went on to receive five more academic degrees from higher institutions, including Oregon State University and John Hopkins University.

"I wanted to go into academia because of the many role models that I had while at SPU," he said.

Lin’s connection to SPU roots back to his father.

His father was the president of a seminary in Shanghai, China. At the seminary, Lin’s parents cared for roughly 200 orphans. His parents wanted all of the children to be treated equally, so "I didn’t know that they were my parents until it was time for us to leave for the United States," he said.

In 1948, his family came to Seattle so that his father could further study theology for one quarter at SPU and a few other schools.

"We only intended to stay in the United States for one year, but China closed in 1949 and we weren’t able to go back."

While at SPC, Lin’s father worked in the office of Dr. Otto Miller–a position that would work to Lin’s benefit in the future.

"I was behind in applying for college so my dad called Otto Miller to see if I could get into SPC," Lin said. "Dr. Miller said to send the application directly to him and he got it processed."

He enrolled at SPC in 1961.

While at SPC, his former roommate John Moyer, a 1966 alumnus, said Lin was someone people always wanted to be around.

"He was always the center of attention," Moyer said. "He enjoyed people and we enjoyed him."

Moyer came to SPU after seeing that Lin was the Alumnus of the Year. He and Lin have had little contact in the past 40 years and he said wanted this to change.

"I have to look back and say that I wasn’t the least bit surprised," he said, referring to Lin’s award.

Upon graduating from SPC, Lin applied for medical school and received an alternate acceptance at the University of California, San Francisco. Instead of enrolling there, he went on for a two-year masters program at Oregon State University.

Lin said he never wanted to go into clinical medicine. Instead, he chose the field of public health legislative policy. This decision led him to a job as a student assistant in the National Health Service Corps in Maryland. During this time, he helped designed a medical school loan repayment program.

"As long as you can ensure funding for students, they don’t have to hold down two jobs while they’re in school," Lin said. "Instead, they can focus on what they came to school to do."

As one of the scholarship’s first recipients, Lin paid back his medical school expenses by providing medical services on a Native American reservation in Washington state. The Coleville tribe had 6,000 people with only Lin and one other doctor to provide service.

Lin planned to continue his work on the reservation when he received the opportunity to work in the nation’s capitol.

"I went to D.C. in 1977 and just never left," Lin said.

When it comes to balancing a family and career, Lin says that the process is hard as there are two sides of the spectrum–one which calls him to work all the time and another which prompts him to spend time with his family.

Usually, the answer for him came in the form of a compromise, especially after he promised his daughters that he would attend their soccer games.

"If I was in a meeting and it was going long, I would say, ‘Sorry, I have something else that I have to get to,’ and I would go," he said. "You just have to ask yourself what are specific priorities in life, and then you figure out how to work around them."

When asked what advice he would give to SPU students, Lin said that hard work and regular dialogue with God serve as the basis and taking this as they come.

"Be willing to trust God," he said. "Things don’t always just happen the way you hope they will, but there is a reason for it. I had no idea what was ahead for me, but if I did, how would I have prepared for it? You have to take everything step by step."

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Title: Alumnus takes life one step at a time | Author: Evi Sztajno | Section: News | Published Date: 2008-01-30 | Internal ID: 6246