Alfred and Edwin Lin: The Million Dollar Contributors to the Robotics Team
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Alfred Lin (’90) and Edwin Lin (’93) reminisce about their days at Stuyvesant and the struggles they overcame to get to where they are now: Partner at Sequoia Capital and Head of Global Fixed Income at Citadel, respectively. With their success, they donated $1 million to the Stuyvesant Alumni Association for a new robotics lab, which is predicted to open by the summer of 2019. Here, they express their enthusiasm for giving back to the supportive community of which they were once a part.
How would you describe your time at Stuyvesant? Are there any memorable experiences that stand out to you?
AL: Stuyvesant was very important to my development. My parents were very focused on Edwin and me being good at math and science. Going to Stuyvesant was rewarding and intimidating at the same time. In elementary or junior high school, it was easy to be at the top of my class, but at Stuyvesant, the competition was more intense. The most impactful experience I had was being on the math team. Being somewhat of a nerd and not very athletic, it was my first time being valued both as an individual contributor and a team member. Edwin and I actually both became math team captains, and that was one of the more emotionally shaping experiences during my time at Stuyvesant.
EL: I can’t agree with Alfred more. Stuyvesant was my first introduction to meeting people who were equally driven. When you walked through the doors of 345 Chambers Street, it was not only intimidating but also rewarding. The powerful combination of collaboration and friendly competition was instrumental in my early development. Both Alfred and I went on to attend Harvard, and our experiences at Stuyvesant made our adjustment to college as well as to the workforce considerably easier. My most memorable experiences were similar to Alfred’s: being captain of the math team, attending math competitions for the school, city, and state, and thinking about how to solve problems.
AL: The caliber of excellence we encountered at Stuyvesant was unlike anything we had ever seen before. In some ways, Stuyvesant was more rigorous than Harvard and ended up shaping my character and ambition. Even traveling to Stuyvesant was an endeavor. We lived in Queens, and to get to school on time, we left the house before the sun came up every day—we took the railroad to the subway and then had to transfer to another subway line. We would often stay late for after-school activities and take the reverse route back. The commute and our different commitments made us disciplined and forced us to use our time wisely.
How were you involved with the Stuyvesant Robotics Team, if at all?
EL: Neither of us were specifically involved with the Robotics team when we attended Stuyvesant—it was maybe in its nascent stages in the early ‘90s. But on my last visit to the school, Principal Eric Contreras described the many pressing needs of the school. He showed me videos of the robotics team and gave me a tour of the current lab. At that time, the coach and a few students were there, all of whom were working on their machines. They eagerly showed me their many first place medals from competitions and demonstrated their current project work. The team also mentioned that they sometimes were forced to work in the hallways. It became clear that the current lab and resources did not satisfy their needs. After my visit, I called Alfred and said we should really do something for Stuyvesant. We called Principal Contreras the next day and informed him that we wanted to fund a new robotics lab.
AL: There were multiple reasons for our gift. One of them was that we wanted to honor our parents. They emigrated from Taiwan and when we first moved here, we were temporarily poor. But they taught us that anything is possible. Stuyvesant was a very important time in both Edwin’s and my life, and we both had the desire to give back. When we were at Stuyvesant, the robotics team was not fully developed yet. But in San Francisco, I’ve seen many companies investing in robotics. I believe this new lab can have a tremendous impact if it harnesses the creative energy of students who are interested and passionate about the field.
EL: When I was at Stuyvesant, I attended many city, state, and national competitions with the math team and never had to pay for administration fees, travel costs, or lodging. These days, I hear many Stuyvesant students can’t afford to attend the competitions that they have worked so hard to qualify for because their families do not have the financial means to do so. How can that be right for society? Being able to provide resources for these deserving students was an important part of why we got involved.
AL: To Edwin’s point, Stuyvesant had a profound impact on our lives. Our experiences there gave us the confidence to believe that we can do anything in the world if we only work hard enough. We wanted to give back to Stuyvesant and provide an enriching experience for today’s students so that they will look to their future with the same optimism and confidence we had.
What do you hope this new lab will bring to the student body?
EL: What is most important is for students who have interest or a curiosity in robotics to be able to explore the field. It’s not necessarily important to immediately excel at it. Life’s journey affords everyone ample time to determine their true passion. If this lab can make just one student more interested in robotics and that interest develops into a significant contribution to the world, we’ve succeeded.
AL: We hope the lab will accomplish two goals. One is to open people’s eyes to what is possible. Even if the students do not pursue robotics as a career path in the future, being surrounded by others who are passionate and discovering what is possible with technology can be incredibly useful. It is valuable to be able to envision a future that is different from today. The second goal is to allow students who are very interested in robotics to learn more about their passion so that they can continue pursuing robotics in college or graduate school. And hopefully one day, they will build or create companies that change the future of our lives.