Bobby Shin, M.D.
In my memories, it is always bright and sunny as I walk up the street towards East Rock Institute. I leave behind the College, a raucous and chaotic maze of blackened stone and iron gratings. Walking through East Rock's door, I find myself in another world - a quiet and serene place of reflection and study - filled with gently worn wood and shining panes of glass. Dr. Koh is always busy doing something, organizing or writing or telling us stories, gently nudging us in this direction or that, ever smiling.
It's been almost 30 years since I made those walks up to Dwight Street, but I still cherish my memories of those visits. It is a great regret of mine that in the excitement and bustle of graduation, I never let Dr. Koh know how much her guidance meant to me (perhaps I did not fully appreciate its value at the time). I am grateful for the opportunity to do so now on the occasion of her 80th birthday.
When I was a college student, it seemed to me that the mission of East Rock Institute was to teach me more about the Korean culture. Now, decades later, I see Dr. Koh's influence on me in different terms.
I smile to remember how much time I spent thinking about "cultural identity" during my college years compared to how little it ever crosses my mind now. Somewhere along the way, I stopped defining myself as I had in college, as a Korean-American, and took on other roles - medical student, intern, resident, fellow, attending, husband and father.
Which is not to say that my time spent as a member of the Korean-American Students at Yale or as a part of the Korean-American Journal or working at East Rock Institute were without value - but Dr. Koh's legacy in my life has little to do with academic lessons about Korean culture and East Asian studies, though her contributions in these arenas are obviously prodigious.
Instead, Dr. Koh's great legacy is the way she served as a role model to myself and many others over the years, exemplifying the best humanistic values and passing them on to others simply by being in their lives. More than teaching me about my culture, she taught me what it means to live a good life by exemplifying integrity and respect for others, by being a master communicator and advocate, and by showing me the importance of family and of life-long learning.
As a physician and teacher and husband and father, I have found that those lessons, more than any others I learned in my years at Yale, have stuck with me and are the lessons I most want to pass on to my students and children.
So, after all of these years, thank you, Dr. Koh! And happy birthday!