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News Release

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 / Fax (410) 516-5251

May 1, 1998
Leslie Rice, lnr@jhu.edu

The following are a few of the interesting students who are graduating from The Johns Hopkins University on Thursday, May 21. Photos of the students are also available.

Journey to Wisdom

One might think that winning a rare Fulbright Scholarship to study in England would be the highlight of a young life. But after a youth marked by upheaval and the isolation of being a stranger in a foreign country, Johns Hopkins University graduating senior Tang Ho views the grant more as the next step in what has become, for him, a more important journey towards wisdom and self-expression.

Tang spent his first 13 years raised by his teacher-father. Though his father was demanding and strict, the two were close, and Tang knew he was the center of his father's world. But his father's health had never been good, and after he was injured in a fall, he believed he could no longer care for his son.

So Tang was sent from the lush greenscapes of Taiwan to Abeline, Texas, to live with a mother he didn't know. Though they hadn't seen each other since she left for America when he was 2 years old, mother and son overcame the awkwardness of years of separation and grew close. However, Tang was not as quickly accepted by his mother's family, with whom he lived, and who had never condoned his parents' marriage. Tang had always been shy. Now, lonely and homesick, he struggled to learn English and to make sense of his new life. The pain of separation from his father was made more confusing because, after a childhood of vigilant attention, his father refused to contact Tang in any way.

In high school, friendly classmates and caring teachers worked after hours with Tang to get him up to speed. He worked hard at school and in the family Chinese restaurant. By senior year, he was named class valedictorian and was accepted into Hopkins. Still, he never shook the feeling of being different from everyone else, and sensing he didn't really belong anywhere.

That changed at Hopkins. There he met other students who had similar immigrant experiences, and -- probably more importantly -- while at Hopkins he worked hard to overcome his shyness and help other people who were also feeling lost or alone.

It wouldn't be until a 3 a.m. phone call his junior year at Hopkins that Tang would once again receive word of his father. A former student of his father's told Tang his father was in a hospital, dying. Tang packed his bags and took the first flight to Taiwan. But by the time he got there, his father had already died.

"Now I look back and I think he wouldn't have any contact with me all those years because he wanted me to get on with my new life and not look back," says Tang. "But I'll never really understand."

Now, as Tang looks back, he is less proud of being a biomedical engineering major -- with a combined 4.0 average -- than he is of being president of the student social events programming committee, making sure there was something happening on campus going on for everyone.

Or getting up the nerve to join the speech team freshman year and overcoming his fear of public speaking.

Or for putting together a group of students to visit patients at a nearby VA nursing home once a week. (It was the dying, old soldiers' stories of the war in Europe that gave him a bit of the wanderlust he has now.)

"I'll always be shy, but I've learned how to put myself out there and not wait for people to come to me," he says. "I think that you can go to college and study hard and get a great education. But education and wisdom aren't always the same thing, and I think you gain wisdom when you open yourself up to new ideas, new experiences and new people."

His Fulbright will either take Tang to the University of London or the University of Edinburgh where he will study the biotech industry and its effects on public policy. He hopes he is offered a place at Edinburgh. He spent a day there last year during a summer study grant at Oxford University and the greenness of the country, its fresh air and the farming villages reminded him a little of his childhood in Taiwan.

When his studies there end, he will enter medical school.

Best Friends at Hopkins Share Love of Scholarship, Adventure

Two of the country's top grants for graduating seniors have been awarded to two Johns Hopkins University seniors who also happen to be close friends, roommates and fellow history buffs, athletes and fraternity brothers.

John Saxe (pictured on the left), of Fair Haven, New Jersey, is one of 18 American students awarded the Luce Scholarship, a $25,000 grant that provides stipends and internships in Asia. He will work in the Nakasone Institute, a national security research institute in Tokyo, while taking graduate classes at Tokyo University. Saxe, as one of his professors says, is one of the last of the "scholar-athletes." A varsity tennis star and member of the varsity football and Olympic weightlifting teams, he is also president of two honor societies and will earn his master's degree in American government at the same time he earns his bachelor's in political science. He is able to juggle so many things, and do them well, because he has learned how to be goal-oriented and completely organized.

His roommate and fellow weightlifter, Robert Smith (pictured above on the right), of South Glastonbury, Conn., was awarded the East-West Center Grant. The grant includes tuition and a stipend to study at the center, a University of Hawaii-affiliated think-tank that researches issues involving Asia and the United States and receives federal funding.

Smith is more of a by-the-seat-of-his-pants type, who, with a little bit of luck and a lot of personality, managed to obtain the first and only interview ever given by the leader of the Tibetan resistance army. Last summer, with a Hopkins undergraduate research grant, Smith traveled to the mountains of Tibet, and set out looking for the elusive former monk-turned general-turned monk again. Everyone he met told him it was unlikely he would find General Baba Yeshe, let alone interview him, and that he really ought to have a back-up research project proposal. He said he did (he didn't) and traveled to Katmandu where he literally knocked on peoples' doors, asking for directions to Baba Yeshe's house until he finally got lucky. He hit it off with the general right away, and for the next month, Baba Yeshe told Smith the story of the Tibetan resistance movement. By the time they were finished, Yeshe told Smith he knew they had been loyal friends in a previous life. Today they still communicate. Yeshe even sent Smith a Christmas card.

While Smith was in Tibet, Saxe was in Denmark, also funded by a Hopkins undergraduate research grant. There he interviewed survivors of the Danish Resistance Movement and chronicled their rescue operation of Danish Jews in World War II. That study, and his master's thesis, titled "The War in Yugoslavia: Its Causes and its Cures" -- which examines ancient ethnic hatreds in the Yugoslavia and which offers, what he believes, a more realistic model for peace -- are both highly publishable works, says Benjamin Ginsberg, a Hopkins political scientist and director of the university's Center for the Study of American Government in Washington, D.C.

"John does painstaking research," says Ginsberg. " And he has a lively intelligence and good interpretation of the evidence. It's not always easy to find all that in an undergraduate. Add to that, someone who can offer tips on your tennis game ..."

If you'd like to talk to Tang Ho, John Saxe or Robert Smith, please contact Leslie Rice at (410) 516-7160.

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