Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Classmate of Obama's and the Serendipity of Travel

One never knows the experiences that await nor the interesting people one might meet while traveling. As an academic, the majority of my travel entails speaking engagements, whether at workshops or conferences, or in seminar settings. I also do my fair share of travel to serve on panels, including government panels, and give short courses.

My most recent trip, which I have written several posts on, was to Honolulu, Hawaii, to speak at the Workshop on Social Theory and Social Computing. The workshop organizer, Dr. Sun-ki Chai, who is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawaii, told me at the workshop banquet at a Korean restaurant in Honolulu, that he was a classmate of President Obama's at the Punahou School and that they both graduated together as the class of 1979 (interestingly, they were also classmates earlier in their elementary school). How often does one meet an academic colleague who can say that he went to school and graduated with the President of the US?!

Obama went on to Occidental College, and then transfered to Columbia University; afterwards he received his law degree from Harvard. Dr. Sun-ki Chai, on the other hand, went on to Stanford, where he received 3 degrees, in Mathematical Sciences (a Bachelor's), Computer Science (a Master's), and in Political Science (the PhD).

The Punahou School, which goes from grades K-12, is the largest independent, co-educational school in the US. Given the kind of intellectual leaders that it has graduated, it deserves a round of applause.