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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 7, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 21
Thinking Out Loud

William R. Brody

By William R. Brody

'Linda Trinh was Johns Hopkins University at its finest'

Editor's note: At her funeral on Jan. 29, President William R. Brody gave the eulogy for Linda Trinh, a Johns Hopkins senior who was found dead Jan. 23 in her apartment in Baltimore. The standing-room-only service, held at Our Lady of Vietnam Roman Catholic Church in her hometown of Silver Spring, Md., was attended by more than 100 students, faculty and administrators from Johns Hopkins. In honor of Trinh, Dr. Brody asked that we run his tribute as his monthly column.

Last year, Linda was asked to describe herself and her future goals as part of the application for her senior engineering design project. The few sentences she wrote say so much about her hopes and dreams for the future.

But they don't say everything.

Linda's own words cannot begin to encompass the great admiration and respect of her many friends, of her professors and of her colleagues in research. In one laboratory, Linda worked on a project to cultivate stem cells. Her mentor was Professor Hai-Quan Mao, who remembers Linda as a wonderful person, always smiling. "Everyone in the lab," he says, "fell in love with her."

Professor Eric Young, who was Linda's academic adviser and, for one class, her professor, says he watched Linda evolve at Johns Hopkins. He saw how in this, her senior year, she was preparing herself for going out into the world. "Linda was the kind of person you look forward to seeing," he says. "She was a person with ideas, and enthusiasm, always interesting to talk to."

Linda's friends and sorority sisters remember Linda's happiness. She always retained her sense of humor. She was bubbly. Laughter came easy. She never failed to think of others. She was a leader, someone who would become president of her sorority. Someone you would naturally turn to when you had troubles of your own.

For the past three years, Linda worked as an assistant in Professor Joseph Gitlin's research lab, devising ways to use digital mammography to bring breast cancer screening to women in poor communities. Professor Gitlin remembers Linda as one of those rare and exceptional students who could grasp the research and at the same time talk with women of different ages and entirely different backgrounds and make them comfortable and at ease. "She was so mature for her age, so courteous and respectful and sensitive," he says. "Linda was instrumental in helping us reach out to the community."

These are the things people at Johns Hopkins say about Linda. You may not have heard these words before, but these sentiments about Linda come as no surprise, knowing her as you do.

And of course, you all know what Linda said about Johns Hopkins. You know how much she loved the university, and how happy she was to be a student there. Linda was too kind, too thoughtful, too caring ever to be called proud. But she was proud — intensely proud — to be part of Johns Hopkins. She was in her element, in the community of scholars.

All of this you know about Linda. But what you may not know is how proud we at Johns Hopkins are of Linda.

On her senior engineering design project she wrote: "I am a senior Biomedical Engineer. This past summer I traveled to Viet Nam to observe the public health issues regarding breast cancer. I also made time to volunteer at an AIDS hospice in Ho Chi Minh City for a month. My goal is to obtain a doctorate degree ... . I hope to significantly impact the world with my research ... to lobby for better and more affordable health care services for cancer and AIDS patients in third-world countries."

Linda Trinh was Johns Hopkins University at its finest — determined to use her intelligence and faith and insights to advance knowledge in order that she might help other people.

Linda represented the bright promise of tomorrow. She was joyful laughter. She was our best hopes for the future.

With you today, all of Johns Hopkins mourns. We have all lost a golden glimpse of the future. We have all lost a treasured daughter.

But we do not despair of hope, remembering Linda's devout faith, and the comforting words of the prophet Micah: "When I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me."

Not long ago, a physician from Johns Hopkins who served as an Army doctor in Vietnam had a six-year-old son who developed leukemia. After many months of terrible struggle, the boy died. And his father, reflecting that despite their very best efforts they could not save their son, came to realize the only absolutely sure thing in life is the love we can give to others. And so he wrote about his experiences, and in particular, he wrote these final words I can offer, this brief benediction for all parents who grieve:

"May we all find peace in the shared hope that our children who brought us such joy with their short lives are now a host of angels, loving us still, feeling our love for them, awaiting our coming, and knowing that they are safely locked forever in our hearts."

William R. Brody is president of The Johns Hopkins University.


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