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0:19 - Family background and childhood in China

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Partial Transcript: Now to start off the interview we’re going to start from your early life and go on, so in your wedding announcement in the New York Times said in 1990 that your father was a professor, and your mother was a physician.

Keywords: Army; Born; Chairman Mao; Chengdu; Childhood; China; Chinese army; Confession; Confused; Courtyard; Cultural Revolution; Difficult; Education; Enemy; Engineer; Factories; Father; French concession; Friends; Grandchildren; Grandfather; Grandmother; Grandparents; Hospital; Jobs; Kids; Little Red Book; Married; Military; Mother; Moving; Neighborhood; Normal; Opportunity; People's Republic of China; Physician; Popular; Professor; Red Guards; Retired; School; Shanghai; Spies; Spy; Student; Teachers; Teaching; Tough; Town; Wedding

Subjects: Army; Chairman Mao; Chengdu; Childhood; China; Cultural Revolution; Father; Grandparents; Little Red Book; Military; Mother; Neighborhood; People's Republic of China; Physician; Professor; Red Guards; School; Shanghai

6:36 - Economic status during childhood

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Partial Transcript: Um, how did you perceive your family’s economic background?

Keywords: Background; Chinese; Clothes; Dishes; Economic; Family; Grandfather; Salary

Subjects: Clothes; Economic; Family; Food; Salary

8:12 - Experience in college

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Partial Transcript: Um, well now we’re going to talk about your education, you mentioned in an interview that—oh in a speech to a group of women, for LEAD, that you were one of the first group of students to take the examinations for college.

Keywords: Beijing Languages and Culture University; Beijing Languages Institute; Beijing Languages University; Changed; Chinese; Chinese Government; Class; College; Cultural Revolution; Dating; Different; Education; English; Exam; Examination; Government; Houston; Incredible; Job; LEAD; Learn; Literature; National exam; New York; Professors; Respect; Revolution; Rice University; Statistics; Students; Studies; Study; Studying; United States; Uplifting

Subjects: Beijing Languages and Culture University; Beijing Languages University; Chinese Government; College; Cultural Revolution; Education; English; Exam; Examination; Literature; National exam; Study; Studying; United States

12:01 - Learning English and going to Foreign Language School

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Partial Transcript: So when did you first learn English?

Keywords: Candidate; China; Cultural Revolution; English; Exam; Foreign language; Grandparents; High school; Hospital; Japanese; Learn; Lower school; Lucky; Mail; Middle school; Parents; Physical; Principal; Russian; School; Tianjin; Translation; Visit

Subjects: China; Cultural Revolution; English; Exam; Foreign language; Learn; School; Tianjin; Translation

16:04 - Applying to college

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Partial Transcript: So—oh I read this interesting piece of information that Princeton actually sent you an air ticket to go to the United States.

Keywords: Abroad; Adventures; Applications; Beijing; British; China; China Air; Chinese; Colby; Computer; Difference; Exam; Experiences; Friend; Government; Harvard; Interviewing; MIT; Peking University; Policy; Princeton; Public; Rice; Scholarship; School; Students; Teacher; Tsinghua; Tufts; Tuition; United States; University; Yale

Subjects: Abroad; Applications; Chinese; Exam; Harvard; Princeton; Scholarship; School; United States; University

22:03 - Experience at Princeton

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Partial Transcript: So when you first came to Princeton were you nervous?

Keywords: Ambassador; America; Americans; Asia Society; Asians; Challenging; Childhood; Chinese; Classmates; Culture; Culture shock; Diplomat; Doctor; Dream; Eating; Eating club; Excited; Exercise; Experience; Father; Fraternities; Friends; Funny; Healthy; Heritage; International affairs; Jokes; Language; Laughing; Learn; Lectures; Mainland China; Mother; Nervous; New York; Organization; Princeton; Professor; Rice; Sorority; Strangers; Student; Student health aid; Translate; Traveling; Woman; Woodrow Wilson School

Subjects: Americans; Asians; Chinese; Culture shock; Eating club; Excited; Friends; Heritage; International affairs; Jokes; Language; Learn; Nervous; Princeton; Student health aid; Woman; Woodrow Wilson School

30:53 - Working and saving money during college

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Partial Transcript: Um, did you work during college, even though you had a scholarship?

Keywords: China; Classmates; College; Dining hall; Expensive; Freshman; Friendship Store; Generous; Hi-fi; Home; Jobs; Library; Money; Overseas; Parents; Refrigerator; Scholarship; School; TV; Washing machine; Work; Worked

Subjects: China; College; Dining hall; Friendship Store; Hi-fi; Jobs; Library; Money; Parents; Refrigerator; Scholarship; TV; Washing machine; Work

33:40 - Studying at Princeton vs Beijing Languages University

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Partial Transcript: Um, so what was different about studying at Princeton from studying at the Beijing Languages University?

Keywords: Adventurous; American; Beijing Languages University; Brooke Shields; Caroline Kennedy; China; Chinese; Chinese American; Crazy; Cultures; Drive; Friends; Goal; Graduated; Honor system; Independent; International; Law School; Love; Lucky; Married; Michelle Obama; Misbah; Pakistan; Prince; Princeton; Riyadh; Roommate; Saudi Arabia; School; Students; Studying; United Nations; Women

Subjects: Adventurous; American; Beijing Languages University; Brooke Shields; Caroline Kennedy; China; Chinese; Chinese American; Cultures; Goal; Independent; International; Michelle Obama; Misbah; Princeton; School; Students; Studying; United Nations

38:05 - Lessons learned from peers

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Partial Transcript: So did you learn any important lessons from your peers at that time?

Keywords: Advantage; Advise; Classes; Classmates; Houston; Important; Knowledge; Learn; Learning; Lessons; Peers; Professors; Regret; Society; Students

Subjects: Advise; Classmates; Knowledge; Lessons; Peers; Professors; Regret; Society; Students

38:53 - Experience interning at a law firm

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Partial Transcript: You said in an interview once that you wanted to go see what lawyers do, so like one day you visited a law firm.

Keywords: Background; Chinese; Chinese American; Corporate; Culture; Experience; International; Internship; Japanese; Junior year; Language; Law; Law Firm; Law school; Lawyers; Mentor; New York City; Observing; Opportunity; Woodrow Wilson School; Working

Subjects: Chinese American; Culture; Internship; Junior year; Language; Law; Law Firm; Law school; Lawyers; Mentor; New York City; Opportunity; Woodrow Wilson School; Working

41:08 - Getting passport and visa to come to Princeton

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Partial Transcript: Um, oh I think we skipped over this point, but did your parents want you to come to the United States?

Keywords: Abroad; American; China; Chinese; Chinese government; College; Crazy; Government; Graduated; Ministry of Education; Parents; Passport; Permission; Petition; Princeton; Seriously; Student; United States; University; Visa

Subjects: Abroad; China; Chinese; Government; Ministry of Education; Parents; Passport; Princeton; United States; University; Visa

44:07 - Choosing to go to Columbia Law School

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Partial Transcript: So I guess we can, um, move on to law school?

Keywords: Admissions; Advisor; Apply; Center of International Studies; China; Chinese; Columbia; Economical; Houston; Law school; New York; NYU; Political; Princeton; Professor; Professor Leebron; Scholarships; School; Social; Students; Teaching

Subjects: Advisor; Apply; Chinese; Columbia; Law school; New York; NYU; Professor Leebron; Scholarships; Students

46:10 - Meeting husband

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Partial Transcript: Well, we’re all girls here, and I’m sure we’d all like to know, that um, how did you end up deciding that Leebron was the one for you?

Keywords: African American; Black; Brilliant; Citibank; Classmates; Columbia; Dated; Graduated; Harvard Law Review; Impress; Law school; Lawyer; Leebron; Low-key; Married; NYU; President; Sears Prize; Trust

Subjects: Columbia; Dated; Harvard Law Review; Law school; Leebron; Married

50:04 - Transitioning to life in New York

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Partial Transcript: Um, so let’s go back to your time at Columbia.

Keywords: Busy; City; Columbia; Explore; Law firm; Law school; New York; Princeton; Reading; Subway; Transition; Working

Subjects: Columbia; Law school; New York; Princeton; Transition; Working

51:11 - Activities involved in during law school

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Partial Transcript: So what other kinds of um organizations or activities were you part of?

Keywords: Activities; Article; Brother; China; Chinese; Chinese government; Family; International; Journal of Chinese Law; Journal of Transnational Law; One child family policy; Organizations; Parents; Publication; Sister; Transnational Law

Subjects: Activities; China; Chinese; Chinese government; Family; Journal of Transnational Law; One child family policy; Organizations; Transnational Law

52:33 - Wanting to focus on transaction law

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Partial Transcript: How did you decide what kind of law you wanted to study?

Keywords: Corporate; International law; Law; Law firm; Practicing; Study; Transaction law; Work

Subjects: Law; Study; Transaction law

53:36 - Getting first job at law firm

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Partial Transcript: We can go to your first job at White & Case (PS: ‘Ok’).

Keywords: Applied; Chinese; Experience; Intern; Interview; Japan; Job; Law firm; Law school; Seattle; Summer; White & Case

Subjects: Intern; Job; Law firm; Law school; Seattle; White & Case

54:21 - Going home and getting full time job offer

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Partial Transcript: And then instead of coming back to, um, um, the law, law school, to do the interview, since I was so close to China— you know, from Japan—I went home.

Keywords: Bar exam; China; Columbia; Document; Fast-paced; Friends; Home; Interview; Japan; Jobs; Law firms; Law school; Parents; Princeton; Schoolmate; West coast; White & Case; Work; Worked; Working

Subjects: Bar exam; Fast-paced; Home; Interview; Law firms; Law school; Parents; Princeton; White & Case; Work; Worked

57:57 - Acting as a bridge between China and the United States

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Partial Transcript: Do you feel like you accomplished your goal of acting as a bridge between U.S. and China while you were working as a corporate lawyer?

Keywords: Arthur Levitt; Brown & Wood; China; Chinese; Chinese government; Columbia Law School; France; Goal; Government; Lawyer; London; Ministry of Finance; New York; Relationship; Sabbatical; Securities and Exchange Commission; United States; Washington; White & Case; Work; Working

Subjects: Arthur Levitt; Brown & Wood; China; Chinese; Chinese government; Columbia Law School; David; Government; Lawyer; Ministry of Finance; Securities and Exchange Commission; United States; White & Case; Working

61:14 - Working at Brown & Wood compared to White & Case

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Partial Transcript: So how was the job at Brown & Wood different from the job at White & Case?

Keywords: Brown & Wood; Canadian; China; Chinese; Clients; Companies; Giorgio Armani; Government; Home; Japanese; Job; White & Case

Subjects: Brown & Wood; China; Chinese; Clients; Companies; Government; Job; White & Case

62:57 - Incorporating Chinese culture when raising children

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Partial Transcript: By...speaking to them in Chinese, taking to—taking them to Chinese schools, and getting them to learn Chinese, and they are supposed to learn, like, few characters a day.

Keywords: Characters; Chat; Children; Chinese; Culture; Daniel; English; Learn; Marissa; Parents; School; Speaking

Subjects: Children; Chinese; Culture; Daniel; English; Marissa; Parents; School; Speaking

63:44 - Parents coming to the United States

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Partial Transcript: So—your parents live here, now?

Keywords: Babysitting; Helped; Immigrated; Moved; New York; Parents; Professional; Sister; Supporting; Work

Subjects: Babysitting; Helped; Immigrated; New York; Parents; Supporting

64:30 - Balancing work and family

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Partial Transcript: So I guess that leads to my next question of how do you balance family and work?

Keywords: Balance; Crazy; Daniel; Family; Galleria; Greater Houston Partnership; Hard; Homework; Juggling; Kids; Law firm; Meeting; Nurse; Office; Parent; Piano; Reading; Responsibilities; Rush; Time; Vet; Whole Foods; Work; Working; Yetter Coleman

Subjects: Balance; Crazy; Daniel; Family; Greater Houston Partnership; Hard; Juggling; Kids; Law firm; Parent; Rush; Work; Working; Yetter Coleman

68:50 - Daniel's interest in medicine

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Partial Transcript: Would you encourage your children to take the path you took? To go into law?

Keywords: Academics; Academy of Science; Cancer; Children; Cure; Daniel; Doctor; Encourage; Goal; Internship; Law; Law school; Medical school; Methodist; Professors; Rice; San Diego; Surgeon

Subjects: Academy of Science; Cancer; Children; Daniel; Doctor; Encourage; Law; Law school; Medical school; Methodist; Rice; Surgeon

70:12 - Houston weather

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Partial Transcript: So, I guess, we should talk more about your life in Houston.

Keywords: Complaint; Heat; Home; Hot; Houston; Skin; Therapy; Weather

Subjects: Complaint; Heat; Hot; Houston; Weather

71:11 - Moving to Houston

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Partial Transcript: So, um uh, before you moved, uh, when you first found out that you were going to move, how did you feel about that?

Keywords: Adventure; Alley Theatre; Ballet; Children; China; City; Consul General; Culture; David; Different; Diverse; Excited; Friendly; Houston; Law firm; Lifestyle; Move; Moved; Mr. Wiess; New York; Opera; President; Princeton; Priority; Puppy; Read; Rice University; Similar; Working

Subjects: Adventure; Children; Culture; David; Different; Diverse; Excited; Friendly; Houston; Law firm; Mr. Wiess; New York; President; Priority; Rice University; Similar; Working

74:21 - Role as Rice University representative

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Partial Transcript: So, um, speaking about Rice, what exactly is your role?

Keywords: Ambassador; Asia Society; Childhood; China; Classes; Committees; Community; David; Diplomat; Dream; Events; Faculty; Host; Houston; Love; Relationships; Responsibilities; Rice; Role; Speaker; St. John’s School; Student; Teach for America; Texas Children's board; United Way; University representative; Vision

Subjects: Ambassador; Asia Society; China; Community; David; Diplomat; Events; Faculty; Host; Houston; Love; Relationships; Rice; Role; Speaker; St. John’s School; Student; Teach for America; Texas Children's board; United Way; University representative; Vision

76:45 - Involvement in Houston organizations

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Partial Transcript: How did you get your positions, for instance, working on the board of Teach for America…?

Keywords: Americans; Asia Society; Asia Society Texas Center; Asian Chamber of Commerce; Asian-American leadership award; Board; Chairman; Children; Chinese; Chinese community; Chinese Community Center; Citizens; Community; Cultures; David; Elaine Chao; Embrace; Gala; Global; Houston; Important; Indians; International; Invited; Legislatures; Meetings; Mexicans; Non-profit; Opportunity; Organization; Participate; Positions; Responsibilities; Rice; Secretary Jim Baker; Secretary of Labor; Teach for America; U of H; United Way; Welcoming; Working; Yao Ming

Subjects: Americans; Asia Society; Asia Society Texas Center; Asian Chamber of Commerce; Asian-American leadership award; Board; Children; Chinese; Chinese community; Chinese Community Center; Citizens; Community; Cultures; David; Elaine Chao; Global; Non-profit; Opportunity; Rice; Secretary Jim Baker; Teach for America Houston; U of H; United Way; Welcoming; Yao Ming

83:06 - Job if she had stayed in China

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Partial Transcript: So, looking back at your life, well, if you’ll allow us to speculate, what do you think would have been your job if you had stayed in China, if you didn’t come to the U.S.?

Keywords: China; Job; Life; School; Stayed; Teaching; United States; University

Subjects: China; Job; Life; School; Stayed; Teaching; United States; University

83:38 - Missing China

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Partial Transcript: Do you ever miss China?

Keywords: China; Grandmother; Miss; Modern; Skype; Talk; Technology

Subjects: China; Grandmother; Miss; Skype

85:18 - Advice for Asian Americans interested in law

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Partial Transcript: So what advice do you have for Asian-Americans who are interested in law today?

Keywords: Advice; Analytical; Asian American; Asians; Ballet; College; David; Deceiving; Determination; Law; Law school; Major; Minority; Opera; Ping; Political science; Speak; Stereotype; Students

Subjects: Advice; Analytical; Asian American; Asians; College; David; Determination; Law; Law school; Major; Minority; Ping; Speak; Stereotype; Students

87:11 - Standing up during injustices

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Partial Transcript: It’s true.

Keywords: Asians; China; Confrontational; David; Lunch; Maître d’; Problem; Reserved; Respected; Restaurant; Right; Same; Spoke; Table; Treat; Valentine's Day; White & Case

Subjects: Asians; China; David; Respected; Right; Spoke; Treat; Valentine's Day; White & Case

91:35 - Link between Asian culture and upbringing, and Asian stereotypes

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Partial Transcript: Do you think this is because of the culture that Asians are brought up in? For instance, listen to your elders, don’t speak unless someone speaks to you?

Keywords: Ability; Advocate; Asians; Cocky; Company; Confidence; Culture; David; Elders; Friendly; Immodest; Interview; Job; Law firm; Listen; Modest; Princeton; Speak; Students

Subjects: Ability; Advocate; Asians; Confidence; Culture; Modest; Princeton; Speak

94:01 - Future goals

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Partial Transcript: So what are you goals for the future?

Keywords: America; Asian; Children; China; European; Future; Goals; Help; India; Internationally; Latin America; Recognition; Relationship; Rice; Students; Study; Understanding

Subjects: America; Asian; Children; China; Future; Goals; Internationally; Recognition; Relationship; Rice; Students

96:25 - 9/11 experience

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Partial Transcript: I was just wondering—you were in New York when 9/11 happened.

Keywords: 9/11; Attack; Boehner College; Bond; Building Number One; Building Number Two; Children; Courteous; Daniel; David; Fall; Fire; Hurt; Instinct; Life; Marissa; Mother; New York; Office; Rosemary Smith; Scared; School; Sibling; Sidney Austin Brown & Wood; Terrible; Terrorist; Terrorist attack; Traumatic; TV; Urgency; Work; World Trade Center; Yelling

Subjects: 9/11; Attack; Building Number One; Building Number Two; Children; Daniel; David; Fire; Marissa; New York; Rosemary Smith; Scared; School; Sidney Austin Brown & Wood; Terrible; Terrorist; Terrorist attack; Traumatic; TV; World Trade Center

104:52 - Siblings

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, now I’m very happy my sister is here.

Keywords: Brother; Carnegie Melon; China; Engineering; Graduate school; Graduated; Happy; School; Sister; U of H; Visit; Younger

Subjects: Brother; Carnegie Melon; China; Engineering; Graduate school; Happy; Sister; U of H; Visit


Interviewee: Y. Ping Sun
 Interviewers: Renuka Rege, Brittney Xu Date/Time of Interview: June 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm Transcribed by: Renuka Rege, Brittney Xu (edited by: Taylor Ginter 6/2/17) Audio Track Time: 1:46:36

Background: Y. Ping Sun was born in Shanghai, China in 1957. She was raised by her grandparents in Tianjin, China because her parents worked in the military and frequently moved around the country. For secondary school, Ping was selected to attend a special school for foreign languages, where she studied English. She went on to become a member of the first group of Chinese students after the Cultural Revolution to take the college entrance exam in 1977 and be accepted into a Chinese university. Before she graduated from the Beijing Languages Institute, however, Ping was accepted into Princeton University, where she attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs from 1981 to 1985. After an internship at a law firm during her junior year of college, she decided to become a lawyer and attended Columbia Law School from 1985 to 1988. Ping’s first job after law school was at an international corporate law firm in New York called White & Case, LLP. After four years there, she moved to France for a year during her husband’s sabbatical leave. When she returned to New York, Ping worked at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, LLP, another international corporate firm. After working there for eleven years, she moved to Houston when her husband became the President of Rice University. Ping now serves as a University Representative for Rice and is of counsel at Yetter Coleman, LLP. She is on the board of several nonprofit organizations where she represents Rice to the greater Houston community.

Setting: The interview was conducted in Mrs. Sun’s home, the Rice University President’s House (Wiess House). The interview was approximately an hour and forty—five minutes long. Ms. Sun recounted her childhood and told of her move to the United States for education purposes and her work since then. She provided us with not just information regarding her experience as a successful Asian— American lawyer, but also advice for Asian—Americans of tomorrow.


Key: Y. Ping Sun (PS) Renuka Rege (RR) Brittney Xu (BX)

RR: This is Renuka Rege.

BX: And Brittney Xu.

RR: And we’re here from Rice University with the Houston Asian American Archive project, and we’re here today in the Wiess House with uh Ms. Ping Sun.

BX: Okay. Now to start off the interview we’re going to start from your early life and go on, so in your wedding announcement in the New York Times said in 1990 that your father was a professor, and your mother was a physician.

PS: Yes.

BX: Uh, now I’m wondering, back when you were born, in 1957, if they had the same jobs.

PS: They did, well not exactly, my mother was a physician my father was actually uh the head of—of a hospital.

BX: Oh okay.

PS: At that time. Later on he, um, retired as—as the head of the hospital—he became a professor.

RR: What city was this in?

PS: This was, um, when I was born um I was in Shanghai, but they were not in 1:00Shanghai, they were in um, working uh in, uh Chengdu, it’s a kind of a sea, um, it—it’s a very small town—a resort place, very beautiful, um, because they were in the uh military. They were in the army—Chinese army.

RR: So, um, were you separated from your parents? Or...

PS: I was brought up by my grandparents.

RR: Oh, ok.

PS: Um, it was very popular, um, very normal uh in China, um the grandchildren are brought up by grandparents,

RR: Yeah.

PS: Especially if the grandparents are living in big cities, the education opportunity is much better, um for us because my parents were in the army they were moving around quite a bit.

RR: Right.

PS: So with my parents it was more stable with my grandparents.

RR: Ok.

BX: Did your parents ever have any problems finding jobs during the Cultural Revolution? Or were...


PS: No.

BX: Oh ok.

PS: Because they were in the army.

BX: Oh I see. [Laughter] Ok. Um, can you describe your childhood neighborhood?

PS: Mm. It was a very, um, friendly neighborhood, uh we lived in the French concession, so the, our um, building, I remember high ceilings, and big windows, and um, our house is very close to the school, so I remember all my friend would come to—to our courtyard, and we would play—we would all walk together over to the school. This was before the Cultural Revolution. And then the Cultural 3:00Revolution started, and things changed.

BX: Um well you said that things changed. Can you give us a few examples?

PS: Mm. Well, um, one day I was just playing with my friends in the afternoon—we didn’t make play dates—you just go out, go out on the street, you will find other little kids to play with, um, at that time actually, the families—we didn’t have telephones at the house. Um, so, I got home, it was um, maybe a little earlier than it is now, maybe it was like four o’clock or so, I got home, and I saw my grandmother, sitting in the middle of the room, and Red Guards were running around, and all the uh trunks were turned upside down, um, I was very confused, and so one Red Guard grabbed me and took me over to my grandmother and said that she is the enemy of the people. I was so confused, I was like she always taught me to be a good person, how can she be the enemy of 4:00the people? Um, her only crime was, she married my grandfather. My grandfather was an aerospace engineer, and he went back to China in 1949, when the um Communist Party took over, um established uh the People’s Republic of China, so he went back with a group of other engineers, and they also had pilots flying planes back, and this group of people set up factories in um couple of major cities, and so they were given very high salary by the governments before the Cultural Revolution and then during the Cultural Revolution the Red Guards thought they were spies. So they wanted my grandfather to confess. So he was 5:00kept at the company and, um, in a small room and he was asked to write confession but there was nothing to confess because he was never a spy. So um, so things got—sort of—difficult, I just remember the whole mood if you go on the street you just saw fear, um, on people’s faces. And uh, of course the school kind of—teachers stopped teaching—except our teacher. She was very brave. She was still trying to teach us, but we all—every student had to recite the Chairman Mao, the Little Red Book, all those quotations, um, so, um, that was—that was really, um, tough times, uh for us. Until Premier Chou En—Lai said—made the statement that, um this group of people, um, has contributed a lot to building of China. We should not be treating them like 6:00this. After that, things got better.

RR: That included your grandparents, in that group?

PS: Yes. Yes. That’s—that’s the group um he was referring to.

RR: Ok. So how—how old were you when the Cultural Revolution happened? Or started?

PS: I think it started—I think I was like, uh, five or six.

RR: Ok. And then when—when Chou En-Lai, uh made the statement, when?

PS: Mhm it was like two, three years later.

RR: Two, three years, ok.

BX: Um, how did you perceive your family’s economic background? Did you think you were well off?

PS: Yeah we were.

BX: Oh.

PS: By Chinese standard at the time. Uh, my grandfather was making 200 Yuan, which like—which is like not even 30 U.S. Dollars, per month. But the average salary, in China at the time was 30 to 50 Yuan. So of course, you know we were considered very well off I—I remember, that I had never had to wear patched up clothes, I always had new clothes, and uh we always had three, four dishes, um 7:00for majority of families they were lucky if they had one dish. Um, some slice of, you know, pork, and lots of vegetables. But we—I remember, um, we had milk, and fruits, um I had milk and fruit every day, so which was not very common, um, at the time.

RR: So—um, so you moved, some time, um to Tianjin—Tianjin, is that—is that right?

PS: Yes—yes.

RR: Ok, when was that?

PS: Uh, when I was, uh, when I was a baby, actually.


RR: Ok, so you were only born in Shanghai?

PS: Right.

RR: And then you moved with your grandparents there?

PS: Yes.

RR: Ok.

PS: Yes.

BX: Um, well now we’re going to talk about your education, you mentioned in an interview that—oh in a speech to a group of women, for LEAD, that you were one of the first group of students to take the examinations for college.

PS: Yes.

BX: Um, and you were twenty when you took them, right?

PS: Yeah—uh—no, actually when I took the exam, uh, I was, I was about, yeah, probably eight—eighteen or nine—nineteen probably, uh close—close enough, twenty, that’s fine.

BX: Oh. Um, well how was college, after the revolution, how was it, like changed?

PS: The college, it was the first group, so when we got to college, it was incredible, it—just the feeling very uplifting, and everyone was eager to learn, and so that’s why the first—the first class, we are called qi qi jie, that means ‘77, that means we—we took the exam, in ‘77. We actually 9:00entered the school in ’78, uh in March I remember, um, but since we took the exam um, in that year we are called ‘77 class, um, we—not that many students would be dating, because we would all be concentrating on studies, no time for—for dates. Um, so that’s quite different now, uh the younger generation um you—you see there’s nothing wrong with it but it’s just not, um, you know not the fashion at the time. So we were very, uh studious.

RR: So what do you mean it was the first class?


PS: The—during the Cultural Revolution there was no entrance exam.

RR: Ok.

PS: So uh after the Cultural Revolution, they um, the Chinese government resumed the uh exam system. So we were the first group taking the exam. Actually there were two—

RR: It was a National exam.

PS: Yes. Two generations. My uncle’s generation and my generation taking the exam at the same time, so as a result, um, I don’t know how accurate this statistics um, uh is, but I was told, one out of a hundred people taking the exam was admitted to some kind of college.

RR: Yeah, because the spots must have been limited in the first few years.

PS: Right. Mhm.

RR: Yeah.

PS: Especially the first year.

BX: Yeah. My parents once told me that the class of ’77 was the nicest class to their professors because the respected them so much. Do you still keep in contact with some of those professors?

PS: I do, I do. Uh, some of my professors actually came uh to uh—um to uh New York. None of them has uh visited me in Houston yet, but because New York it’s 11:00um the location more delegations coming through, um—oh! That’s not true actually! Um, three professors from my school came to visit Rice University, but they were not the professors who taught me.

RR: Ok.

BX: Um, what did you study while you were in college? Were you preparing for a certain kind of job?

PS: Well, I studied uh English literature, um, I was at the, um, Beijing Languages uh University. When I entered it was called Beijing Languages Institute just like Rice Institute, and then later on it was changed to um Beijing Languages now it’s called the full name is Beijing Languages and Culture University. Um, so I was basically studying um, literature, English literature there, and that’s why I thought well, maybe I should—you know—uh try to come to the United States, to study.


RR: So when did you first learn English?

PS: That was—that’s the piece missing I didn’t tell the story, um, that was still during the Cultural Revolution I think uh as I was finishing, um, lower school, I got to the middle school the—the um, head of school, principal, uh came to see me and said, ‘Ping, uh we’d like you to go and take an exam today.’ I thought ‘oh, ok maybe it was just some kind of competition on behalf of the school,’ so a teacher took me there I took the exam, then few days later, the principal came to see me again said Ping, we need you to go for a physical. I was like, that’s kind of strange, so a teacher to me to the hospital, I looked around I was scared because I didn’t know 13:00what’s happening! So I told the nurse, you know in china we tend to call, uh women older than we are Auntie, or—or men Uncle, even though there’s no relation. [Laughter]

PS: So I said Auntie, Auntie you know, I have terrible tonsil problems. She [laughs] she just laughed, she said—she knew I was nervous—she said, ‘don’t be afraid, you are very lucky! You are a candidate to go to this foreign language school. If you are chosen you will learn a foreign language you will become a diplomat.’ So I thought oh! This is something good! [Laughter] So I got home and I was living with my grandparents so I sent a letter to my um parents that said that there might be a chance that I might be going to this changing foreign language school. And, you know it was a period of snail mail, 14:00and so by the time their letter came back saying that ‘oh this is a good thing’ I was already in the school.

RR: Oh wow.

PS: So—mhm—so that—

RR: How often—oh sorry….

PS: Mhm, go ahead.

RR: I was just wondering how often did you see your parents since they were...?

PS: Oh, maybe once a year, they would come and visit, um, and so that’s why I thought my grandparents were my parents when I was [laughter] and um, and so, when I got to the school, uh there were 200 of us, um, chosen to attend the school, three languages were offered: English, Japanese, and Russian. You didn’t have your choice. You were just assigned a language, so I was lucky I was assigned to learn English. That’s how, um, so I—I was there for about five years.

RR: And this is like a high school?


PS: This is sort of middle school through high school.

RR: Ok.

PS: Mhm.

RR: Ok.

PS: So after that, um, I um, started working in a uh the translation office of uh Tianjin um, metals and minerals import and export corporation. So from there, um I took the exam.

RR: Oh ok, how long did you work at that place?

PS: A little over a year.

RR: Ok and that was after you finished this—the five-year school?

PS: Right.

RR: Ok.

PS: Right. Mhm.

RR: Great.

PS: Things were quite different from what’s done here, right? [Laughter]

RR: So you chose to study English literature later, kind of because you were already in that track? Or...

PS: Yes.

BX: Yeah.

PS: Mhm. Yes.

BX: Um, next is your application to Princeton.

PS: Mhm.

BX: So—oh I read this interesting piece of information that Princeton actually 16:00sent you an air ticket to go to the United States.

PS: They did. They did.

BX: Um, I was wondering how much it would’ve cost if you had to buy one back then.

PS: I don’t even know. I have to check the statistics, because I don’t think there were airlines from, I’m not sure whether there was the China Air even flew to the States. Maybe they did at the time. Um, I don’t really know. Uh, well the tuition to Princeton at the time was 18,000, now but this is—almost—30 years ago, [laughter] so now it’s probably 50.

RR: Yeah. [Laughter]

BX: Yeah it is.

PS: 50,000 right, more than 50,000.

RR: Probably, yeah.

BX: Yeah.

PS: So that’s a big, big difference.

RR: Wow.

PS: The other thing was that I—I was just marveling the change in 30 years, um, when I first came I was lucky I got a full scholarship to Princeton and 17:00then, um, we could only exchange thirty dollars. So when I came, I had thirty dollars in my pocket, that was it. Now we have quite a number of Chinese students here at Rice.

RR: Yeah.

PS: Um, their families are all paying the tuition.

RR: Yeah, that’s true.

PS: So it’s a big difference. [Laughter]

RR: So how did you decide to, um, or how did you just—how did you decide to apply to go the United States, and—

PS: I—

RR: —how did you choose the school and all that?

PS: I always, um, I love adventures, I love to have new experiences and uh, so when Harvard went to, um, China to recruit students I wanted to, um, to try—uh actually, I was chosen with two male students to go and take the exam. And then, um, then they were saying that we might be little bit older than the general population here in the States, so they prefer younger students to take it. Actually there were—the age was only one year—for me—the two male students 18:00were—uh—are older actually they—both of them are five years older than I am. And, so, because of that, you know they wanted younger students, um...

RR: For the—test for?

PS: For Harvard.

RR: For Harvard. Ok.

PS: So we, lost our chance. [Laughter]

PS: And, um, the teacher we had a teacher, uh she’s British, she was educated at Harvard. She said—one day she came in class she said if you are interested in going abroad you can do it on your own. I thought yes! I will do it on my own so I went to her, I borrow uh—um the directory of— uh universities, at least I didn’t do, um, what a friend of mine did. I think he went to Alabama, 19:00because they just, you know, ‘abcd’ right, they just [laughter] so I sort of knew what schools I wanted to—to apply so I sent letters to about ten universities including Princeton, Yale, Tufts and some other places, um, but I only applied—when they sent me the applications—I only applied to Princeton and Yale because I know they offer scholarships, even though my family was well to do, uh by Chinese standards, but there was no way we could afford the tuition here, at the time. Um, so I just sent the—um—applications out, at that time everything is like you have to type it, it’s not, you know the...

RR: On the typewriter?

PS: Right, typewriter there’s—there was no computer—personal computer yet. Uh, and I remember I went to the teacher, uh with my essay I asked her to take a look at my essay and she said well, I cannot really change your essay because 20:00they—they should be seeing what you can do.

RR: Right. Yeah.

PS: And, so I thought that was—that was a good policy.

RR: Yeah.

PS: And then, um, they did have some—someone, um, interviewing us, um, so, I, um, I got into Princeton but I was rejected by Yale. Uh they took a male student from my class but he rejected Yale. [Laughter]
So he went to Colby College.

RR: To where?

PS: Colby.

RR: Where’s that?

PS: It’s um, I think maybe Massachusetts somewhere, uh, uh, very cold, it’s a small—it’s a small liberal arts college. His theory was that he did not 21:00want to be a small fish in a big pond, and he wanted to be a big fish in a small pond. So, um, and um, at that time I didn’t realize the, um competition between you know, Princeton and Yale they were like um, my first year at Princeton the football game, um after eighteen years of losing to Yale finally they won!

RR: Oh! [Laughter]

PS: So they, they built a big bonfire. [Laughter]

RR: You brought the good luck. [Laughter]

PS: Yes! [Laughter]

RR: So your university in Beijing was public—like government?

PS: Oh, at that time all universities were public. Now you—you—you have some 22:00private universities. But still the quality is still better the public uh univer—like Tsinghua, like the MIT of China, or Peking University—Harvard of China—they are all public.

RR: Ok.

BX: So when you first came to Princeton were you nervous? This is your first time in another country.

PS: I was. Uh, I was nervous and excited at the same time because I felt like oh! There was so much to learn so much to see, so many people to meet, and uh, so that’s why, um, I don’t really have problem now going into a room if I don’t know anyone at all, I can just go up to someone and start a conversation. I think that was because uh the early years, um that sort of experience uh coming to, um America, you know a country full of strangers to me at the time but now I feel like I have lots of friends, um actually I’m going to New York uh, tomorrow to attend the Asia Society global board meeting um, I—I serve on the local the regional board of Asia Society but they did a strategic planning committee, so they asked me to join the strategic planning committee. The requirement is that you have to be present for this board 23:00meeting, and so—but I’m leaving one day early—the—the retreat starts on Friday I’m leaving Wednesday night, Thursday I’m inviting seven, eight, um ladies both Asians and Americans, and Chinese, and—to have lunch because these are all my friends from different, uh groups in New York. I know all of them, but they don’t know each other, so I thought this would be a good, uh way of, um introducing them to each other.

RR: Yeah.

PS: So I’ll be having lunch with these, uh ladies. Sorry, it’s sort of off track a little bit. 24:00[Laughter]

RR: It’s ok! [Laughter]

BX: Oh no problem. [Laughter]

RR: No problem.

BX: Uh was there any sort of culture shock when you first got to Princeton?

PS: Yes. Um, I could follow the lectures, but I could not understand jokes.

RR: Oh. [Laughter]

PS: So, the professors you know whenever prof—a professor cracks a joke, um, all the classmates would be laughing, I was laughing too! I wasn’t laughing at the joke! I was laughing at them for laughing at something that didn’t seem funny to me. [Laughter]

PS: So, but—but—but later on I um, I learned, um, now I think I’m pretty good with most of the jokes. [Laughter]

RR: I think that’s the hardest thing to understand in a different language or culture.


BX: Yeah.

PS: Yes. Mhm. And I also learned um, how to translate something, um because sometimes there was no equivalent, if you just translate you don’t give people hint they don’t really understand it’s a joke, so if I want to translate something from English into Chinese to a group of Chinese, I will say, oh, so and so just said something funny, and then I will translate after that they sort of it triggers something and then as soon as I—I finish my translation they all laugh. [Laughter]

PS: So [Laughter]

RR: It’s better. [Laughter]

PS: Yeah. [Laughter]

RR: That’s funny. Um, so um, at Princeton did you join any kind of student organizations or anything like that?

PS: Yes, I was serving as the student uh health aid, um since I learned something from my pa—my mother, my father, even though he is not a—he was not a doctor, but he, um, has been very interested in um, sort of healthy 26:00eating, and sort of exercise, and using natural herbs to help, uh maintain a healthy lifestyle, so I learned quite a bit from—from both my parents and so when I got to Princeton, they have this position uh—you know stu—student health aid. So I thought ok! I—I could do that. [Laughs] And then I also joined uh, eating club, uh Charter. Um, I was at the Woodrow Wilson School at the time lots of students from the Woodrow Wilson School joined Charter. I know the characteristics went through some changes. Um at one point after we 27:00graduated becau—when I was there lots of um, computer science majors and Woodrow—uh Woodrow Wilson School students, um, joined the club, few years later, um, uh lots of uh football players joined the club, so it sort of—it changes, uh...

RR: What is it?

PS: Um, it is like a [residential] college, except you—you only eat there, you don’t live there.

RR: Ok.

PS: Unless you are an officer.

RR: Oh, ok.

PS: So we don’t—we don’t have uh at Princeton there is no—like Rice there is no, um, s—um what would you call it? S—sorority?

RR: Fr—fraternities and sororities?

PS: Fr—fraternity? Right. Right. We don’t have that.

RR: At Princeton, ok.

PS: They have eating clubs.

RR: Oh interesting. So they have many different eating clubs?

PS: Yes.

RR: Oh ok.

PS: Yes. They do.

RR: So when you, uh, applied, did you—were you already going to be in the Woodrow Wilson School?

PS: No, you had to apply again,

RR: Oh.

PS: At the end of your sophomore year. It was a fairly selective program, because lots of students wanted to join the program. I think my year they—they took sixty students.

RR: Ok.

PS: It’s normally a graduate school, but every year they—they take in, um, sixty undergraduate students. But they are about to make a change.

RR: Oh really.

PS: Um, I think instead of being a selective program they want to open up to, um whoever wants to be a major at the Woodrow Wilson School.


RR: Ok.

PS: Mhm.

RR: So how did you ch—how did you decide that you wanted to do that?

PS: Because um it’s—I—I’ve been very interested in international affairs, and so I thought given my culture background I have something to contribute, um to the school.

RR: Ok. How did you get interested in international affairs?

PS: It started from my childhood dream I thought oh! It would be wonderful to—to be a diplomat, to—to be an ambassador, and so—and so [laughter] um...

RR: Did you like that idea because of the traveling aspect? Or...

PS: The traveling, and also I thought, um this was a very naïve way of looking at the world at the time you know being a little kid…

RR: When you were little…

PS: I thought you know, there are so many problems in the world, but being a states—um—woman or—or diplomat, you have to deal with um other countries 29:00you have to talk to them you have to come up with solutions to problems and then you work together...

RR: But it’s true! Kind of.

RR: Yeah.

PS: So that was I thought oh! That would be something interesting and challenging.

RR: Yeah.

BX: Yeah.

PS: Because you know you—you don’t do the same thing over and over again right, you—you are faced with different problems.

RR: Right. Mhm.

PS: So...

BX: Did you keep in touch with your Chinese heritage through college, did you like for instance talk to other Chinese students, and...

PS: Yes. Yes. Um, I was the first female student from Mainland China, and uh—um before me there were two male students. Um, so, we um, we were very close, and then after uh, I got there, two, um girls came along, from China, and 30:00so we were very active um, when there was, uh, we were part of the uh—uh center for international students, and whenever there was a international festival, we would be performing Chinese dances.

RR: Ok.

PS: Mhm.

BX: Um, did you work during college, even though you had a scholarship?

PS: I did. Two jobs.

BX: Oh wow.

PS: Um, even though I had a full scholarship, I didn’t have any pocket money. So I need to—I remember my first year, um, now it’s kind of hard to believe, my first year I didn’t spend a single dime.

RR: At all?

PS: Not even a penny, because I had toothpaste and everything brought over from China—so I was all set! [Laughter] And then I worked and worked and worked, um, because I um went home after my freshman year. And at that time when you 31:00uh—are sort of uh—uh staying overseas when you go back to China you were given four quotas, the big thi—four things you could buy, refrigerator, TV, hi-fi, washing machine. Those are four big things. And then little things like an iron, and you know so—each person was allotted those quotas. I—

RR: From Princeton?

PS: No, no from China.

RR: Oh!

PS: Because at that time—in China you couldn’t really have access to that many foreign-made goods.

RR: Oh so those were things you could bring with you?

PS: Mhm.

RR: Oh ok.

PS: What you do is you pay here and then you—you take this piece of paper back to China and go to the special store called For—uh—Friendship Store, and then you pick up uh, goods there.

RR: Oh.

PS: So I was determined, I—I wanted to make enough money to buy my parents all 32:00those things.

RR: Aww.

PS: So [laughter] so I worked in the dining hall, I worked um in the um library, and uh, by the time I went home, I bought them all those four things.

RR: Wow!

BX: How much did it cost?

PS: It was quite expensive.

BX: Uh, do you remember any of the prices?

PS: I don’t remember the prices, but you know, some of them over a thousand dollars!

RR: Wow. You must have saved up a lot! [Laughter]

PS: Yes! Because I—since I didn’t spend anything you know it’s just um, um, because I thought when I was in—in school my parents were very generous they supported me they would send me fifty Yuan a month when my um classmates some of them a lot of them were on scholarships they would be getting seventeen Yuan a month,

RR: Oh wow.

PS: and then we even had—the students who had been working and they were sent 33:00by their companies, uh—even they didn’t have as much money as I did, they were given like thirty Yuan a month. So, uh I thought well my parents did a lot for me, and I want to make sure they have everything. [Laughter]

RR: Yeah. Yeah.

PS: Now if you go back to China you can get everything—anything there so it’s—it’s like—

RR: You don’t need …[laughter]

PS: You don’t really need to, you know get all the stuff there anymore. [Laughter]

RR: Um, so what was different about studying at Princeton from studying at the Beijing Languages University?

PS: Well, um, first of all, at Princeton we had the honor system, and also very, uh, they um, the students are more independent,


RR: Yeah.

PS: Sort of independent thinkers. And um, I was actually lucky, um, in China, in that school, we are called the whole United Nations, because there were lots of international students studying Chinese there. So we were exposed to different cultures, and uh I actually roomed with uh an American student—the first female student from America. Originally before the school learned, um, there were American students coming, I was assigned a roommate from Pakistan. Um, I—you know we were very good friends, and then they learned there would be one 35:00American student— female student coming so they just pulled me they—they said ok, you will be rooming with this American student. I said oh ok! I—I was—it was—it was good that my friend Misbah was not offended.

RR: Yeah.

PS: And then they assigned my best friend to—to room with her. [Laughter]

RR: It worked out. [Laughter]

PS: It worked out. And um and I still—I’m still in contact with my roommate um from America.

RR: Wow.

PS: She is Chinese American.

RR: Ok.

PS: She fell in love with a prince, um from Saudi Arabia, um, at the school they got married after they graduated. Now they have three boys, um, they lived in Riyadh for quite a number of years,

RR: Wow!

PS: And now they are talking about you know um, is it in Saudi Arabia the women are talking about getting their right to drive.


RR: Mhm.

PS: My roommate was telling me the story that, uh, she was going crazy because she was not allowed to drive, and so when everyone was praying, she got into the car she would be driving in the yard. [Gasps, laughter]

RR: Just—for—just because she wants to?

PS: Just to drive! Just to get behind the wheel, even though she was not going anywhere it was like circle.

BX: Wow.

RR: Wow. Oh my gosh!

PS: Um, but now they're still—this is like—gosh almost thirty years later they're still fighting for their right to drive, um...

RR: Yeah! Wow.

PS: Um, the other difference was that—I—I feel, um, I could um, explore um, sort of, I became more, um, even more adventurous. Um, and um, kind of uh, 37:00determined to um, it—it was sort of along the way it wasn’t all smooth sailing, and um but I was determined to—to achieve my goal. If I set a goal, I just, you know kept telling myself that I need to work toward the goal one step at a time, eventually I’ll get there. [Laughter]

BX: So you went to school with a lot of famous people, including Caroline Kennedy at one point right?

PS: Yes. That—that’s the law school.

BX: Oh.

PS: And my college was also Michelle Obama.

RR: Oh really?

BX: Oh wow.

PS: Uh huh. We were in the same class, and then Brooke Shields came, two years later. [Laughter]

BX: So did you learn any important lessons from your peers at that time?

PS: I did. Now, um, now I sort of regret that I didn’t—even though I thought 38:00I was getting to know lots of people um, but still, um, now my advice to students is that try to get to know as many classmates as possible, um because you can really learn a lot, um, from, you know, from the—your classmates, um, of course learning, um, taking classes, and learning the—the knowledge from professors is important but, getting to know the classmates and going out uh into the society like you know, uh taking advantage what Houston can offer, um is also important. So now I regretted that I didn’t do more.

RR: Right, right.

PS: Mhm.

BX: You said in an interview once that you wanted to go see what lawyers do, so like one day you visited a law firm.

PS: Mhm.

BX: Was that the point where you decided you wanted to go into law?


PS: Well what I did was um at the Woodrow Wilson School they offer um, internships, and—but you have to look for the opportunity yourself.

RR: Mhm.

PS: Um they will let you do it, uh so I just applied to this law firm, and I was lucky I was accepted as an intern. Every Friday for a whole semester I would go into New York City. I would be working, uh at this law firm basically observing what lawyers do, and eventually I also um presented a paper, um, and um, after that experience I decided I want to, um become a lawyer. Because my mentor, uh was someone who had very similar background as I do, um, he is Chinese American, 40:00speaks fluent Japanese.

RR: Oh ok.

PS: So he was working a lot with Japanese companies representing Japanese companies at the time because the—at that time there was—there was not that much uh Chinese uh, business uh, going back and forth um, between the two countries. So I thought well, I can go to law school, and then I can also make use of my uh Chinese language and culture background as well.

RR: So when was that, what year was that?

PS: That was 1984. You mean the law—the—the—the law firm. The internship?

RR: The internship. Mhm.

PS: ’84.

RR: And that was in your jun—soph—junior year?

PS: Junior year. Yes. Mhm.

RR: Ok. Ok. So that—what kind of law firm was that, just...

PS: It—it’s a corporate law firm. Mhm, yes doing international transactions.


RR: Oh ok. Ok.

PS: Mhm.

BX: Um, oh I think we skipped over this point, but did your parents want you to come to the United States?

PS: No. They thought I was crazy. [Laughter]

PS: When I told them, they—they at first they didn’t take me too seriously. They thought—because they had never heard anyone would apply to American university. Especially I was in the university in China hadn’t even graduated. [Laughter]

PS: And so they just, they didn’t say anything, and then I got in. They still didn’t believe I could get permission from the Chinese government.

RR: Oh yeah.

PS: Actually, I wasn’t sure myself, because when I first applied, um you have to get permission from the Ministry of Education to apply for a passport. When I first applied they told me ‘no’. You cannot go because I—I guess I could understand them because I was being the first group of Chinese students, you 42:00know, getting into college, and, here I was, I hadn’t graduated but wanted to go abroad. Um, but I did not give up, I just every other day I would be bicycling to, um, to the ministry and petition for my case. After three months, I guess they were tired of me they—they— they were fed up! Ok you can go!

RR: Go! [Laughter]

PS: Go, just go! So I got my passport—

RR: Uh huh.

PS: —and I still didn’t know whether I could get visa or not.

RR: Right, right.

PS: It’s very hard to get a visa. Um, and um so I got there, stood in line, and got in and when I—you know you fill out forms and then you go up to meet the uh—um, sort of visa officer. His first question was, I’m very curious, a 43:00six months old baby is going to college in the states [gasp] I—I immediately realized my mistake, instead of putting down my birth year I put—put down 1981 so of course! You know, I was only six months old! So I thought [gasp] but I said oh but—but she’s a very smart baby! And she got a full scholarship to Princeton! So he just laughed, he just stamped my passport! So—so sometimes humor, you know works.

RR: Yeah! You have to put them in a good mood.

PS: Yes, yes. And also realize that, you know, what mistake I made. [Laughter]

RR: Yeah. [Laughter] That’s funny. So I guess we can, um, move on to law school?

BX: Yeah Columbia.

RR: So how did you, uh choose which law school to apply to?


PS: I wanted to stay in uh New York.

RR: Ok.

PS: So I applied to Columbia, NYU, I was lucky I got into NYU, I also applied to couple of, um schools on the west coast but then I thought it’s kind of as safety schools, and um, so, um, I um, got into both, and both offered me scholarships.

RR: Oh great yeah.

PS: Um, then I went to visit NYU Law School on the admitted students day. Um, the director of admissions said oh Ping you need to go and see Professor Leebron. I said, ok. David was teaching—was a professor at NYU Law School. He um, he was the Director for Center of International Studies.

RR: Ok.

PS: Um, he was also serving as informal advisor to Chinese students.

RR: Oh, ok.

PS: So if I had gone to NYU Law School, I would’ve been their first Chinese 45:00student in the JD program in the three-year program. They had Chinese students, uh in the one year—uh the um LLM program. And um, so my guess, I took one look at him decided to go to Columbia. [Laughter] But then when I went back to Princeton, um I realized that his name is so familiar um it turns out that I quoted him in my thesis before I even met him.

RR: Wow!

PS: My thesis was um, China and U.S., uh collaboration in China’s offshore oil, uh exploration to study the political, social and economic implication of such cooperation. I said this is really interesting now we’re in Houston, you know the capital of oil and gas. [Laughter]

RR: Oil! Oh my gosh that’s—crazy. [Laughter]

PS: So I—I, you know went to Columbia and um, um, then we kept in touch.


RR: Ok.

BX: Well, we’re all girls here, and I’m sure we’d all like to know, that um, how did you end up deciding that Leebron was the one for you?

PS: He—uh we dated a long time—we dated for about five years.

RR: Ok.

PS: And for the first three years, I had no idea he was the president of Harvard—Harvard Law Review.

RR: For the first three years?

PS: If—for the first three years. If you want to impress a girl, that’s, you know, it can very easily come through you know come—come out, you know in a conversation. Not until, um, he—I—I met his uh one of his classmates, um, very tall handsome, um, uh, uh—well should I say black or African American now 47:00people are de—debating you know which is more, um, well, African American um, lawyer working for Citibank. And he told me, thanks to David, he—he got through law school. And how much David helped him even though he was so busy—he was the president of Harvard Law Review, he was—oh, wait a minute, what did you say? What did you say? He was—he was what? Um, and then he was also, I think uh one of the two students getting the Sears Prize, that’s like you have to be like number one your class or something: Not a word!

So I thought, well, it shows that, you know he’s a very decent human being; he’s, you know, very low-key, he very understated, he doesn’t, you know boast about himself. And then I also discovered that it doesn’t matter whom 48:00he’s talking to. Whether he’s talking to this group of people, he’ll be telling you exactly the same thing. To this group, that group, even though, I’ve seen some people, ok, if I talk to this group, I might sort of change a little bit, and then the other group change a little bit, um working to my advantage, but he doesn’t do that. So I thought, well, he can be trusted. So I—I think um, that’s very important to have trust. Um, of course, a brilliant mind, um, helps, but sometimes there—there is like drawback of that too. Sometimes he’s absentminded because he’s always thinking, so, you have to have patience. Sometimes I have to say David? Did—did you hear my question? [Laughter]

RR: So what years were you dating? What were those years?


PS: We dated, um, we dated when I was in my first year.

RR: Ok.

PS: At law school. But we had an agreement. We will not discuss legal issues.

RR: Oh.

PS: Um because I guess he wanted to make sure I was interested in him rather than his legal knowledge.

RR: Yeah.

PS: Um, and then, um, we dated uh when I was in law school, and then um, after I graduated from law school I started working, um, and he got an offer from Columbia. To go to Columbia uh, to—as a visiting professor so he did that for a year, um, then they gave him a permanent offer. So, he was deciding what to do, so he asked me should I stay at NYU or go to Columbia. I said of course go to Columbia! [Laughter] So he did, um, then one year after he went to Columbia 50:00we got married.

RR: Ok, great. Um, so let’s go back to your time at Columbia. Um, so, how was the transition moving from a small place like Princeton to a big city, New York?

PS: Um…

RR: I guess you had already been working there a little so you knew?

PS: Right. I had some exposure of—to—to New York City but, um, when you are in law school you still um, that’s the other thing I—I feel like I didn’t um, the first year I didn’t really have time to explore the city. You know you—you—you are so busy you just, um, every free moment is reading those cases, and, um, and um but then, um after the first year the second year, third year I started also working in law firms then I had more time to explore the city.


RR: Oh ok.

PS: It can be little bit overwhelming, I remember the first time going down to the subway, it was like [gasp]. Um, but now, it’s no problem.

RR: Yeah.

PS: Mhm.

RR: So what other kinds of um organizations or activities were you part of?

PS: I was the um editor of uh Transnational Law, um, in line with my interests in international law, even though they had Chin—Journal of Chinese Law I did not join the Journal of Chinese Law, um, because I thought um, well um, I—I participated in their activities, but I—um worked, um, on sort of the Journal of Transnational Law. One regret I have is that um, my uh article was chosen for publication, it was on one child—uh Chinese one child family policy, um, I 52:00debated, debated, eventually I decided not to go, um, to publication, um because at that time I was being little bit critical of the Chinese government, but I thought gosh, you know my parents were all in China, the whole family, my brother and sister, um, I did not really want to put them, you know, in—in any sort of a jeopar—I did not want to jeopardize, uh their um, um position or—or chances. Um...

BX: How did you decide what kind of law you wanted to study?

PS: I was interested in transnational, um transaction law. So, I know I wanted to go into a law firm that has, um, sort of, very strong in corporate, um, transaction, um, see, when you talk about, um, international law, even when you 53:00work with international law firm, actually we were not really practicing international law, we were practicing U.S. law U.S. corporate law but representing, um international corpor—corporations. So it’s little bit different, um and, the people doing international law, it’s like involving the hei, that’s like really international law.

RR: Ok. guess...that’s...yeah. Do you have any more questions about Columbia?

BX: No. We can go to your first job at White & Case (PS: ‘Ok’). So, how did you get your first job, were you an intern there first?

PS: Yeah, I applied. Well, um, the—they, they come to, to law, law, (RR: recruit) uh, law schools to recruit, but I didn’t interview with them that 54:00summer, because after my first, first year, um I split my summer. I went to work for a law firm in Seattle, and then a law firm in Japan. Um, I just interviewed with them. I was the first Chinese national they took. And I had a wonderful experience, uh at both places. And then instead of coming back to, um, um, the law, law school, to do the interview, since I was so close to China—you know, from Japan—I went home. Because I hadn’t been home for four years—

RR: —cause you were on the East—I mean, West Coast?

PS: Yeah because after the first year I went home, and then three years at Princeton—never gone home. So after the first year at law school, I was like, after four years, I really wanted to go home! To, to visit my um, parents. So I 55:00went home instead. And then when I came back, I just sent letters to White & Case and a few other law firms. And they offered me an interview, and I got the job. Um, so I worked there. My second year, summer, uh, after working there, uh, they gave me a permanent offer. So I started. That’s the thing. Um, I remember when I took the bar exam, um, a person, um, graduating from Fordham Law School, schoolmate was passing by, you know, this person, knows, this schoolmate, and after he left, that person just whispered ‘Those people went to Columbia. They all have jobs.’ Which was mostly true. (clears throat) Because we all got jobs, uh, our second year. So you don’t really need to worry your third year. Uh...

RR: So your second year you already (PS: Yes) have it?

PS: Yes. A permanent position. Um. But it was hard work. It was very hard work. 56:00Long hours.

RR: Yeah, so what was the lifestyle like, during your first years at White & Case?

PS: Worked and worked and worked (all laugh). Uh, I remember pulling all-nighters, and um, I, um, well, I, you know, went out with, with friends, too. Um, but most, most of the time we were, even working on weekends, too. (BX: Yeah)

RR: Did you enjoy that (PS: I did), kind of fast-paced lifestyle?

PS: Fast-paced...I remember, uh, as a junior associate, I was, um, in charge of closings, and uh, uh, this huge transaction, uh, project finance, um. We have so many law firms coming and so many pieces of documents. Um. Uh uh uh. I was 57:00determined—I wanted to send the closing documents out as soon as possible. So we managed to send everything out within a few days of the closing. They were like—they had never heard of—because sometimes, a piece of document is missing, you have to wait a couple of weeks for that document to come, and then you get—you will be lucky if you get a closing set one month later. (BX: (laughs) And we got everything out, um, so fast. Of course, after that, I collapsed (RR: yeah) (laughs). But when I was working I was just like (RR: full of adrenaline) yes, full of energy, just go go go go. Um, and then, after the closing, I think I slept straight fifteen hours straight. (RR: oh wow) (laughs).

BX: Do you feel like you accomplished your goal of acting as a bridge between U.S. and China while you were working as a corporate lawyer?


PS: Yes. I did. Um, one, um, this is the whole, little story, um, this was when I uh, moved to, to, to Brown & Wood. I was at White & Case for four years, and then David had a sabbatical so we went to France for about six months. When I was there, Brown & Wood called me up and say that, well we are thinking of starting a China practice, um, would you like to come and work with us? And I thought, well, that’s a possibility! So after I came back from the sabbatical, I went to work for Brown & Wood. And there, the firm represented the Chinese government, in its bond offerings. So I was able to, um, help, um, the Chinese, um, officials, senior officials, from the Ministry of Finance (RR: oh...) to go 59:00and file, confidential filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington. Um, one of these trips, I was waiting at the airport, uh, waiting for this Chinese official to come. The plane came, from London, and he was tran—changing planes in London. No sign of him! I was like what’s happening?

So finally I tracked him down. He missed a flight, um, in London, so he ended up in New York instead of Washington. And he said to me, he said, ‘Well, I can take a Greyhound overnight to Washington!’ I said ‘No. (RR and BX laugh) Do not take Greyhound overnight to Washington! Go to my apartment.’ Um, at that time, David was there, and my parents were visiting (RR: ok). So he went to our 60:00apartment, stay overnight, and then took the shuttle the next morning, to Washington. And of course his luggage didn’t come (RR: right...) so we had to go and buy him a suit. (RR: laughs) Um...luckily the meeting was, as you see, was in the afternoon. So we went to the meeting, it was very successful, uh, the Chairman of the SEC was Arthur Levitt. And he met with us, and um, we discussed the, the issues, um, and did the filing. And then I took pictures. Um…five years later, when Arthur Levitt came to Columbia Law School to give a talk—um, at that time, David became the Dean already—so we hosted a dinner, at home, for him. I was able to give him the pictures I took five years prior to that. So uh I, I feel I was able to make use of my culture, background, and language to 61:00help, uh, um, bridging um, building the relationship between China and the U.S.

RR: So how was the job at Brown & Wood different from the job at White & Case?

PS: (police car sounds in background) Um, the nature is...the—the law, was very similar, it’s just dealing with different clients. Um, at White & Case, one of my clients was Armani. Um, (RR: ok) Giorgio Armani! (BX: laughs) I incorporated his store on Fifth Avenue. So I did all the paperwork for him, and uh, um, prepare everything for his signature. Um, and I also represented some 62:00Japanese companies, and Canadian companies, not that many Chinese companies. (RR: ok).

RR: Ok. Whereas in the second one, it was a lot of Chinese…government?

PS: Lot of Chinese companies, Chinese government and I travelled to China quite a bit. One year, I think I was back and forth to China seven times. (BX: uh-huh). Um, to pitch for transactions, and so, that was exciting.

BX: And to make up for all those years that you didn’t go back.

PS: Yes. (laugh). But the problem is that when I went back I didn’t have time to (RR: right) go home (BX: laugh), it’s just, you know, sort of (RR: yeah) um, visiting, um, potential clients, and (BX: yeah) mmhm.

BX: Um, so we’re going to ask about your children and your family.

PS: Sure!

BX: So how do you try to incorporate Chinese culture when you’re raising your kids?

PS: By...speaking to them in Chinese, taking to—taking them to Chinese 63:00schools, and getting them to learn Chinese, and they are supposed to learn, like, few characters a day. Um, during the summer. Um, and um, my secret weapon is my parents. (BX: laugh). My parents, you know, are here, and my sister. They don’t speak much English, so they have to talk to the children in Chinese. Um. In that sense, Marissa’s Chinese is a little bit better than Daniel’s, even though Daniel is older. You know, girls like to chat more (RR: yeah that’s true), so um, she is able to, to express herself more more in Chinese.

RR: So—your parents live here, now?

PS: Mmhm, they do. They immigrated here, um, fifteen years ago, (ok) to New York. And they when we moved here seven years ago they decided to move with us. 64:00And my sister came two years ago.

BX: Did they work while they lived in New York?

PS: Not really.

BX: Oh ok. So they just came because you were here.

PS: Yes. They, they help—in a way, they did, they worked, they helped um, babysitting (BX: oh, (laughs) RR: yeah definitely) Right, so we were supporting them, but they were babysitting for us. So in a way, they kind of helped us. (RR: yeah)

RR: I bet that was really important um, with your busy professional life.

PS: Yes.

RR: So I guess that leads to my next question of how do you balance family and work?

PS: It is, it is hard, to have all the balls in the air, (BX: yeah) um...I um, you know, when I first had Daniel, um, I was, I was, still working full-time at the time. But I also wanted to nurse him. And so (laughs), I would, um the law firm was really wonderful, they gave—I had my office, that they put a lock on 65:00the door, and so um, you know, I, so that I could pump milk and put it in the refrigerator and then, you know, uh, get it home. But when I worked all night, I would rush home in the morning, nurse Daniel, you know. Rush home, took a shower, nurse Daniel, and then went back to work. (BX: oh, wow) To the office. So that was a (RR: crazy) crazy time. (RR: yeah, I bet) and now, even though, I don’t work, um, at the law firm that much, um, I—I still serve as of council at Yetter Coleman, but I have lots of different uh, uh, different responsibilities. Like this morning, this is like I went to a, uh breakfast 66:00meeting at Houston Greater, Greater Houston Partnership. Uh, they put me on the common grounds committee. So from 7:30 to um, to, 9-something, I was there. And then 10 o’clock, took the puppy to the vet, and then 11:30 had a lunch meeting, and then uh...after the lunch meeting rushed to the Galleria to get my iPhone fixed because I dropped it (RR: oh no!). And so it was broken (BX: ooo), and I had a 3 o’clock uh, meeting, and now it’s (RR: yeah) 5 o’clock! (laughs) (RR: thank you so much for making time for us!) interview! But in between—after the 3 o’clock, and before the 5 o’clock, I, I sort of rushed to Whole Foods and pick up food for tonight. (laughs) So, it’s lots of juggling, juggling act. (BX and RR: yeah, yeah). And tonight after dinner, I’m going to sit down with the kids and get them to do, um, I’m thinking of 67:00getting them to do some, um...They did KUMON before, and now I found this program and it’s called Alex; that they can do math online. And as a parent, you can check, um, check their progress (RR: yeah). So I’m thinking of signing…signing them up to, to do some work. Because the first part I just let them to kind of, kind of, uh, goofing around, and not doing much work, other than the piano, a little bit of homework. Um, reading a little bit. They—they need some downtime. But I think now, they need to start doing something every day.

RR: Um, it’s funny—this is not related—well, kind of: um, this, the summer after my senior year of high school, (PS: uh huh) I actually worked at that KUMON. And I saw your children’s folders, and I saw them coming in one day (PS: Yes!). But I didn’t, didn’t know who they were or anything because it was before I was coming to Rice (PS: Yes), and then when I came I was like oh, 68:00and then I noticed the last names, (PS: Leebron!) and I was like oh my gosh! (PS: yes, yes yes!) But I only saw them once—I didn’t get to know them.

PS: Right, they go, um, normally you can go twice a week, but I don’t have time to take them twice a week (BX: yeah) so they just go once a week. And Daniel finished um, all the reading (RR: ok) when he was in fifth grade (RR: wow). He finished all the reading through twelfth grade. (RR: oh wow).

RR: So that was not enough for him, probably (laughs).

PS: Yeah... the—because he likes to read (RR: yeah); he reads and reads. Except now, he plays quite a bit of computer games (BX: laughs. ‘all kids do’.) (all laugh) RR: yeah.

BX: Would you encourage your children to take the path you took? To go into law?

PS: Well, they have different interests. Daniel keeps saying that he wants to be a doctor, and he wants to be a surgeon, and—at first he said he wanted to 69:00discover the cure for cancer. I thought that was a great goal (RR: yeah), but I told him that, I said, ‘Daniel, it is a great goal, but I truly hope that someone will beat, you know, beat you to it’. Because, you know, we really want discovery now. Yeah, if we wait for him, yeah, you know he has to go through law school—ah, law school, medical school, and then the internship, and all that. So…But since we have these new hires, you heard about these new hires from San Diego. We have these three wonderful, uh, professors, um, you know, really cancer researchers. They are all, um, academicians, um, Academy of Science, and they will be coming to Rice! (RR: Ooh!) It made—it’s National news, um. (RR: oh, that’s great!) And two doctors will be coming to Methodist, so this group of five will be fabulous. Yeah!


RR: So, I guess, we should talk more about your life in Houston.

PS: Wonderful. (RR: yeah) Very busy. I only have one complaint.

BX: Is it the weather? (laughs)

PS: No! I love the weather! Actually people think this is too hot—I like the heat! (giggles) When you get in the car, oh, it feels great! At home, you have to pay for the heat therapy. Here you can get it for free (laughter). My, my, just my back feels wonderful. (RR: heat is probably better for your body) Yes, yes. Better for your skin (RR: that’s true). My only complaint is that there is only 24 hours a day.

BX: Yeah (laughs).

PS: I—I feel like I have got so much to do, um, it’s just not enough time. (RR: yeah).

RR: So, um uh, before you moved, uh, when you first found out that you were going to move, how did you feel about that?


PS: Excited. I said to David, ‘Oh, this will be a great adventure!’(RR: because you like adventures!) Also we read the white paper on Rice, [sighs] amazing. The more I read about Rice, the more I loved the idea of moving to Houston (RR: oh that’s great). Um. It’s...there was also a, you know, I found out that the first president came from Princeton. Actually, the person, um, Mr. Wiess, who built the house: He went to Princeton, too! (gasp). That’s a Princeton connection! (RR: that’s great!)

RR: So what did you think that—what were your predictions, what did you think Houston would be like? As—in terms of different from New York?

PS: Well, at first I thought, well, this could be cowboy country! ((laughs) You know? But then when I got to Houston, I was like, well, Houston is very similar 72:00to New York! Very diverse, and you know we have—also very sophisticated, we have the culture, the opera, the symphony and the ballet, the theatre, Alley Theatre; so I thought, this is really great. Um...the only difference is that I feel Houston has best of both worlds, it has the sophistication of a larger city, and also has the niceness of a smaller place. True. And like today, I went to the Apple store, bumped into two people I know, (that’s nice) (laughs) and the other day we went to um, we took the Consul General from China to Philippe, the restaurant, we bumped into like seven different people we know! (BX (laughs) RR: laughs, it’s like a family community) Yeah, yeah, so people are very friendly, um, so it’s a wonderful feeling.

RR: So were you kind of ready to stop working at the law firm so much, or, and switch to a different lifestyle?

PS: Well, I don’t really go in that much, I have an, um arrangement, with the 73:00firm, that I go in whenever I have time. If, um I’m—because I feel like my priority is Rice. Rice University is really my priority. And also the children. David—of course, David always says that you know, poor him, um, for me, you know, Rice right, children come first, and then now we have a puppy. We have a dog! Dog, and then it’s David! (all laugh) So, um, uh, I was there yesterday, at the firm, um, and probably I’ll go, um, next Monday, since I’ll be out of town, um, Thursday through Saturday. Um, I’ll go um, Monday, next Monday.

RR: So when did you start going in there?

PS: Oh, I’ve been working there since 2005.


RR: Ok! So pretty much soon after you came...?

PS: Yes, yes.

RR: Ok. So, um, speaking about Rice, what exactly is your role?

PS: Ah, as the University representative. [laughter] I love my role, my role is like um, even though my childhood dream is like being an ambassador, but now, even though I feel like I’m not a diplomatic, uh, um, sort of ambassador in that sense, I uh I feel like I’m people’s ambassador. And also, um, I uh, host events, um on behalf of Rice, and talk to student, different student groups. And um, talk to faculty members, and uh, and especially if they are interested in establishing relationships with China. Um, I, um serve as judges 75:00at student’s events, um (RR: oh yeah you do) (laughs) So basically doing, um, lots of different things (RR: yeah, different things). I also served as kind of a speaker, um, as um, in um, couple of classes. Um, and then I also represent Rice in the Houston community. Um, for instance, I serve on Texas Children’s board, Teach for America, um, Asia Society, United Way, St. John’s School. Um, and um, other committees as well. Um, so I feel like whenever I am about, in the community, I represent Rice. Um, people keep saying that since we came, Rice is 76:00more open, um sort of, um, outside of the hedges, and I I feel like it’s also my responsibility to help David to help Rice to realize our vision for our second century. And uh, so that’s all part of the um, my um, Rice—related responsibilities.

BX: How did you get your positions, for instance, working on the board of Teach for America…?

PS: Um, basically, uh, I was invited to—that’s about the other thing about Houston, the people here are fantastic. (RR: yeah) Um, they are very welcoming, and open, and especially new people coming in (BX: yeah). If you want to participate, they embrace that. And when new people come they say, oh, we need 77:00to put her on board. (laughs) so I, I, I’m getting so many requests, it’s hard to say yes to all of them. Whenever I get a request I would check with chairman of the board, to determine whether this position will serve Rice well. A lot. If it will, then I will say yes. If it’s——I’ve also received invitation to join corporate boards, like uh, for uh, profit making organizations—so far, I’m only serving on non—profit board, so I’m not getting paid anything. Um but one request like that, came along, I checked with the Chairman, and we decided it probably doesn’t serve Rice well. Then I just declined politely. And telling them that, well, right now it’s not a good, so.

RR: So what does that actually entail, being on a board? What do you actually have to do?

PS: Go to board meetings. And uh basically you are the governing body of that organization, so the responsibility is really um, big responsibilities. I serve on the executive board, um, for United Way, and now this is a new position, they asked me to—to do. And then fiduciary board, um, for Asia Society. So we have fiduciary responsibilities. Now we are building a new building for the office. This was a big, over 40 million dollars, uh, effort. It will be completed, uh, very soon. And um, so the Asia Society Texas Center will be moving into the new facility (oh ok great) I hope that you will all come to events (laughs), and 79:00I’ve also chaired galas for them, and for Asia Society, and um, been honored by Teach for America, and uh, just doing lots of different things (yeah). Like I’ve talked to the legislatures about the funding for Teach for America, and uh, and telling them how important it is, to you know, fund education um. Uh, we’ve hosted events for Teach for America. Now Teach for America has its training institute here at Rice (RR: Rice, yeah) this is the second year (RR: I have a friend who’s in it). Yeah, used to be at U of H. (Both talk at same time) Then it came here. (RR: Great! That’s good).

BX: Are you involved in the Chinese community in Houston?


PS: I serve on the, uh, Chinese Community Center’s um, honorary board—advisory board. Because I just don’t have time to go to um, so many meetings, um, I used to be on the Asian Chamber of Commerce board; I served on that board for a couple of years and chaired their—co-chaired, one of their galas. And I was responsible for, responsible for bringing um, the then Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, to be our speaker, uh for the gala. (RR ok...) And this um, this um, past gala, for um, um, Asia Society, um, see I’m doing something that David would not do. (laughs) But uh I appreciate uh, the effort, 81:00and the recognition um, the um, they gave Secretary Jim Baker, the Huffington, the Royal Huffington Award, for um, uh contribution in international affairs and then they gave me the Asian-American leadership award (BX: oh okay!). Uh, so I feel like so honored to share the same stage with Secretary Baker. And then last year’s uh, recipient for the Asian-American leadership award was Yao Ming. (BX: oh haha) So in my acceptance remarks I told everyone that uh, I have very big shoes to fill! (all laugh)

RR: Literally! That must have been amazing.

PS: Yeah. It was a great—it was a great experience. I was able to use that opportunity to talk about how Asia Society—how important Asian Society is, how 82:00the world is changing, it’s getting more and more global, and our children, you know, the younger generation they will not just be merely Chinese, or Americans, or Indians, or you know, Mexicans and...They will really be engaged citizens of the world; so understanding different cultures...excuse me…And understanding different cultures is really important, so that’s what Asia Society is trying to promote. Um, so I was encouraging people to join Asia Society. (RR and BX laugh)

PS: For students, it’s great, you should really think about it. Thirty dollars, I think for it for free, or thirty dollars? (RR: that’s not bad) To join, um, you get to, to go to so many different events. (RR: yeah) Or you can volunteer (RR: yeah) at Asia Society—the gala, the events, and 83:00...sorry. (RR: right). So my stomach won’t be hungry. (RR: are you hungry?) Making noise. Sorry (laughs).

BX: So, looking back at your life, well, if you’ll allow us to speculate, what do you think would have been your job if you had stayed in China, if you didn’t come to the U.S.?

PS: I think I would be teaching at the school. Because even though I was a junior um, the teachers, um, the leaders at the school asked me to stay, to become a teacher at the university. (RR: oh, ok yeah).

RR: Do you ever miss China?

PS: I do sometimes, but now with the modern technology and the things you can talk to them, um, through Skype (RR: yeah). Um, that was how we sent a Happy 84:00Birthday song to my 100—year old, um, grandmother, when she turned 100 two years ago (RR: wow). We sang Happy Birthday song to her (RR and BX: oh my gosh). So we’re all together—but unfortunately no, she passed away last year, I think at the age of 101 (BX: wow). Yeah. (BX: that’s impressive) Very sharp, still very sharp. But uh, I, uh, you know, we have the roses here, so I got rose petals and I took them back and I sort of, you know, said goodbye to her. And she had a, she had a hard life, um for a while, but then the later life, she had a very good, um (RR: yeah that’s good) later years.

BX: So what advice do you have for Asian-Americans who are interested in law today?


PS: Hm! I think that um, they should...especially in college, they should not just think that the only major to law school was Political Science. They can um, you know, have really...variety of interests. Because law schools are looking for students...I had opera singers as classmates, or ballet dancers (RR: oh wow), so it doesn’t really matter that much what you major in in college if you want to go to law school. What they are looking for are those students who are, uh, very analytical, and who have determination, so I, I think it’s a 86:00good thing for Asian Americans to go into law, because Asians are—you know we all have sort of stereotypes; the stereotype of the Asians are sort of the silent minority. We don’t tend to speak up and um, I learned that you need to stand up for yourself. And David will tell you: David’s like, ‘Oh Ping is very deceiving, she seems very mild-mannered, but if she thinks that there is injustice, and she will throw punches!’

It’s true. Some...I will tell you this little story about...we experience in restaurant. We would go to this restaurant for Valentine’s became a 87:00little tradition...and then um, I got there first, since David was coming from uptown. And—so I was taken to a table. And I thought ok. Then I looked over and I saw a table in the corner and I said, oh, ‘May I have that table please? And then, um, the maître d’ said, ‘oh that table is taken, was reserved.’ And I said, ‘that’s fine’, I just sat down, that’s no problem. And a man came in, he looked around—he was taken to another table first—and then he looked around; he saw that table, he said, ‘oh, may I take that table?’ Obviously, he wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t reserved by him because he just spotted that table, and they said, ‘Oh, sure.’ Sat him down. I was like, wait a minute: That doesn’t look right. I asked for the table, and was told it was reserved; he asked for the table, he was told it was ok.


So—but, being me, of course, I spoke up. So I just, smiled to the maître d’. I was just like, ‘but this is very strange.’ And then I looked at the gentleman and said, ‘I’m sorry, no offense to you.’ You know? (laughs) I was like, ‘Well, I was here first, I asked for the table, I was told it was reserved. And this gentleman asked for the table, he was taken to the table.’ I said, ‘Is there some problem here?’ (laughs) Oh, they were so scared! They were like ‘Ooh!’ So they were ‘No, no, no.’ So when David came, I was talking to them. David was like ‘Do you want to leave?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want to leave. I like this restaurant. I’d like to have a nice lunch here.’ So they were being so nice! They got us glass of champagne (girls laugh), they got us this and that. Because I wanted people to realize that you 89:00can’t do that, you know, you should treat everybody the same. If—you know, I would’ve been perfectly fine, um, if someone truly reserved that table (RR: yeah). I would not—that would be—not be a problem. So the moral of the story, speak up.

And today, today, the same thing. Um, lunch came. I was looking at it, like this is not what I ordered. And, uh, um, a gentleman, from China, he um, he was actually cutting up the fish um, they brought over another dish, and then, again, wasn’t something that I ordered. What happened was, they gave my dish to gentleman next to me, and then they gave me something else, and then they realized they brought over the stuff he ordered. But see—he was, he started his, yeah, started, but he didn’t speak up. Right, yeah (RR: So even though he 90:00knew it was…Right. So I spoke up. But he was able to get his—the dish he ordered. So the moral of the story is, really, you need to—it’s not really, um, but there are ways to speak up nicely. You—you don’t really have to be confrontational, you know, have to be…But if you bring it up nicely, then, um, it’s fine. In negotiations as well. I was um, working at White & Case, I was negotiating—at that time I was an associate. I was negotiating with a partner, a man, so he thought, ‘Oh, a woman. So easy to deal with.’ And uh, I didn’t let him off the hook! So I got what I wanted, and actually, David knew this partner; David was just laughing, ‘Well, he deserved it!’ (laughs) So...uh, uh, I think if we all speak up, and uh, eventually people will realize 91:00that you know, Asians cannot be pushed around. So we should be respected.

BX: Do you think this is because of the culture that Asians are brought up in? For instance, listen to your elders, don’t speak unless someone speaks to you?

PS: Part of it. Part of it. Um, also I realized that um, the—in Asian culture we are taught to be modest, not to boast yourself. And then I realized that in an interview, you want the job, so many other people want the job. If you say ‘Oh, I’m not going to add this, I’m not going to add this,’ why, why would they hire you? Right? So you need to say, ‘Ok, I see, um, this is my ability, this is what I think I can contribute to this position. You know, to the company. Or to the law firm. Then they will think ‘Oh, yes, that makes 92:00sense.’ And right? And I think there was a difference between being cocky or immodest, um, than being sort of, your own advocate. (RR: ‘Right’) That’s what David said: ‘Ping, how come you are always so pleased with yourself?’ I said, ‘Wait a minute. If I’m not pleased with myself, then who else will be?’ Right, so you need to, you need to have confidence in yourself first.

The other thing that I noticed, um, especially early on at Princeton, you know I was walking right on the street, I could—I would always look people in the—in the eye. Um, I, I found some Asian, Asian students, um Asian—when they see people, they would look down. Um, and then, sometimes, people sort of walking by, some Americans sometimes...I don’t know what they are thinking, 93:00but I can tell, the way they look at you. And...if they look at me nicely, I will give them a smile. If they look at me sort of not very friendly, I will not smile, but I will look back. If someone stares at me, I will look back. And then they—and then they (RR: then they stop) they stop. Mhmm. Yeah. So. That’s why David says, ‘Ping can be deceiving.’ (all laugh)

RR: So what are you goals for the future? Just, either, professionally, or personally, or anything…

PS: Mmhmm. Well, the goal for the future, is um...that’s a very good question. 94:00I guess I have the—the sort of the short—term goal (RR: ok), versus, the long—term goal. The short—term goal, is um, to really help Rice, to um, get more recognition internationally. We’ve been doing it steadily and um, as you can see, the increase of the international students, from 3% to now 11% or so, and also, um, in um, China in Asia, or um...sort of some um, European countries, and hopefully in Latin America. We want to really spread the word about Rice. And um, so that’s, that’s kind of the short-term goal. Um, the long-term goal, um, I know this position is not sort of forever, and um the 95:00long-term goal is still to um…maybe if situation allows me, I would love to be able to spend some time in China, and spend some time in America. Um, working um, towards, still promoting the understanding, the relationship between the two countries. (RR: and it’s getting more and more important) Right. The long-term, the long-term goal. (RR: great) And I’m hoping, for the children, too! They will you know, be learning more Chinese, and hoping that they will um, be adventurous enough to want to study, in China, or some other countries, to broaden their horizons.

BX: Did you have any more questions?


RR: Um, well I have one: It’s not related to this, but is it ok if we go back?

PS: Sure.

RR: I was just wondering—you were in New York when 9/11 happened.

PS: Oh! My office was in the World Trade Center.

RR: What? I’d like to hear about that experience.

PS: Oh, that (RR: really?), my office was on the 57th floor, Building Number One. Building. And uh, that day, um, I normally don’t watch TV in the morning. But that day was the day I was going to send Marissa to the taller center, Boehner College, her first day in school, so I thought, I wanted to check on the temperature, to see, um...because September can be hot, it can be cold. So I turned on the TV for local news. I saw my building on fire. (RR: that’s crazy) 97:00And...and then, as I was watching, I saw the fireball coming Building Number Two! (BX: ‘Oh, wow’) Then I started yelling for my mother; I said this cannot be coincidence, this must be a terrorist attack! It—it just cannot be coincidence. And then I started calling the office. Couldn’t get through. All the lines were dead. Um, so...and then, um, David was at work, he didn’t know where I was; he didn’t realize I was going to um, take Marissa, stay with Marissa, ‘til about 11 o’clock—I told my secretary that I was going in around 11. Um, my secretary would—already got into the building when the plane hit the first building. So all the glass shattered. Um. She was lucky she was 98:00not hurt; she was also lucky she did not get onto the elevator. The people who were in the elevator at the time, they had burns, when the, the elevator—the express elevator opens on 44th floor, because of jet fuel. Came down through the elevator chutes.

Um, and we lost one person, Rosemary Smith, our long-time telephone operator. She walked all the way from the 57th floor to the ground floor. She came out the wrong entrance. (BX: ‘Oh my god’) the second building came down (RR: oh) so she got caught in there. (breath intake) So that was a terrible (exhale breath) experience. Um, but I have to say, the firm—we just merged with Sidney Austin at the time. And so Sidney Austin had office midtown. The original plan was for 99:00everyone to move downtown, to the World Trade Center. So of course, no more World Trade Center. Instead, everybody moved to midtown. And we all shared offices, and uh...but the firm did an amazing job. You know that was Sidney Austin Brown & Wood, they um, give each person—it doesn’t matter whether you are a lawyer, an employee or staff, um, a check, saying that we know all of you lost personal belongings in the building; here is something to, for you to, to get new things. And um, they, they had chocolate made, um, that says, you know, ‘We care’.

And so, in three days we were back. (RR: wow) At work. Um, so that was quite 100:00incredible. People all very courteous to each other. Um, on the subways, and because we all realized how uh, fragile life is. And you never know what’s going to happen so we really need to appreciate every minute. So um sort of you feel the urgency um, um, so that was a very unreal experience. And uh, of course we were watching TV—Marissa was young, so she didn’t really remember that much. But Daniel was five, and so he watched um, some footage. Because we were in shock ourselves! And then, then we realized he was watching so we turned off the TV—but it was already too late, he already saw the image and he would ask 101:00questions like why would people do that? Why would people want to kill other people? And he would not let me get out of his sight for a few months, you know; he wanted to know all the time where Mommy was and uh, so it was a quite traumatic experience. (RR: wow) So.

BX: He was smart. When I got home—my parents were watching the TV, and I asked them, what movie is this? (PS: Oh!) (RR: laughs) They gave me this look! ‘Cause I thought that they were watching a movie!

PS: Wow

RR: Cause it’s so—

BX: Yeah.

PS: Yeah. How old were you?

BX: I was in fourth grade.

PS: Yeah, very young. So…

RR: Yeah—we were—I don’t know why, but they turned on the TV in school. And so, we saw it.

PS: Well the children must be scared!

RR: I mean, we were in middle school. (PS: Oh!) So we were just really confused and worried (MM) and then everyone’s parents are calling, (PS: right) because they don’t know where the next, you know, the next attack might be. (Right) 102:00Yeah. Yeah that was bad. Mm hm.

PS: Yeah. Right so, um. It’s uh, it was an incredible experience. I just feel very lucky—so Daniel’s like, ‘So, mommy, Marissa saved your life!’ And I say ‘yeah’. (RR: yeah, that’s true) just like he saved Marissa’s life when Marissa was a baby—she was on the bed, I thought that she couldn’t move for some reason, she was rolling! I was too far, she would’ve pfff—um, Daniel, he was like three something, he saw that. He just walked over and block her, (RR: oh wow) with his body! So Marissa didn’t fall. (girls: Oh my gosh) I was like ‘oh!’ Yeah.

RR: It was like an instinct.

PS: Right, it was just an—he just—I didn’t even tell—because I was so—(RR: you didn’t say it) I couldn’t even say anything, oh! It was like 103:00that, and then there he was! (RR: wow that’s amazing). (laughs) So, yeah. That could be the sibling bond.

BX: That’s sweet!

PS: (laughs) So do you all have siblings?

RR: Yeah, I have—I have a younger sister. She’s um about to be eighteen. (oh) So.

PS: So where is she interested in school?

RR: She’s actually just finished her freshman year at the University of Rochester.

PS: Oh, she’s already in college!

RR: Yeah. She’s one of the youngest (right) in her class. Um. She likes it but such——the weather is a huge change.

PS: Cold. Very cold (laughs)

RR: So we need to buy all the gear for her.

PS: Yes, yes. Four seasons—

RR: But she likes it, yeah. Mm hm.

PS: How about you, you have a—

BX: A younger sister. Yeah. And she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. (PS: 104:00that’s good) Yeah. And she actually wants to go to either Yale or Princeton, because when I was applying to those colleges (mm hm), she went with us to visit, and as soon she was there, she was like ‘Mom, would you like it if came here?’ and my mommy was like, ‘yes, yes!’ (all laugh) So now that’s her goal.

PS: Ok, good! That’s good. Yeah. Yes.

RR: She was also attracted by her parents...

PS: Yeah. Yes. That’s nice. So, uh, so are you very close to your sister?

RR: Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard being in a different city. (right) but now like you said, it’s so easy to keep in touch.

PS: Right, yes that’s great. Yeah, now I’m very happy my sister is here. (RR: ‘Yeah, that must be great’) Mm hm. Yes.

RR: Is she younger?

PS: She is younger, yes. Right. In between we have a brother.


RR: Oh, ok!

PS: So yes. He’s back in China. (BX: ‘Oh!’)

RR: Yeah, he decided to stay.

PS: Yep. Hopefully he’ll come and visit. (RR: yeah!) but his son just graduated from U of H (RR: oh, ok) and he’s going to Carnegie Mellon (BX: ooh) for um, for the um, graduate school in engineering. (RR: oh ok) Right.

RR: Well, if you have any other pressing questions—

BX: No.

PS: Ok, if you think of something (RR: yeah), you can always, you know, call me or send me email. (RR: yeah)

BX: Thank you so much for having us over.

PS: Oh you’re welcome—

RR: Yeah, thank you so much for taking out time.

BX: This is really interesting!

PS: (laughs) Um. So how many of these do you need to do?

BX: Four.

RR: We each do four. (PS: ok)

PS: Wow. Great.

RR: Which should be fun. And then next we’re doing people from different parts 106:00of Asia too (BX: yeah)

PS: Oh, ok.

RR: So, should be interesting.

PS: Great. And thank you for doing the work.

RR: Yeah.

BX: No problem!

RR: It’s so interesting.

BX: We enjoy this. I just love listening to people’s stories. (all laugh).

RR: Should we stop that?

BX: Yeah (thud).

RR: Hope it worked!

BX: Oh my god, if it didn’t work!

PS: It looked—if the light is——yeah, should be…

[Recorder is turned off, interview ends]