Paul Hertelendy
Paul Hertelendy

Nearly 50 years after graduating from UC Berkeley, Paul Hertelendy could still vividly remember the day when he received his diploma at his graduation ceremony in the Memorial Stadium.

“It was handed down by Clark Kerr, the legendary president of the University,” he recalls. “It was definitely a very memorable experience.”

It was 1965 when Hertelendy earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. Since then, he has gone on to become a researcher, a professional classical music critic, and a donor to his alma mater where students have been benefiting from his generosity for half a century.

The same year he earned his Ph.D., Hertelendy established a fund in memory of his former colleague, Tse-Wei Liu, a student from Taiwan who died in an auto accident during spring break.

Liu was very well liked, Hertelendy says, adding that they learned about one another’s cultures during their time at Berkeley. Before the accident, Hertelendy recalls, Liu had met all the requirements for graduation and could have been awarded the master’s degree.

“We all felt very keenly and it seemed altogether appropriate to honor him in this way by setting up a fellowship,” Hertelendy says. “I myself am an immigrant from the other end of the globe. There is some commonality between us and we have a common bond in that sense.”

The Tse-Wei Liu Memorial Fund is awarded to graduate students from non-English speaking countries in all disciplines. Hertelendy says he expects the recipients of this fellowship to have academic capabilities and linguistic familiarities.

Born in Hungary to a diplomat family, Hertelendy and his parents moved to the U.S. to escape World War II when he was young. He lived in Washington D.C. before relocating to Berkeley for his college education.

Those years coincided with a tumultuous period in the history of Berkeley when the Free Speech Movement broke out and protests against Vietnam became widespread. In one incident, he recalls that a soccer practice up near the stadium had to be broken off in the middle because of the heavy choking dose of tear gas wafting across most of the campus, launched by the National Guard trying to disperse student demonstrations around Bancroft & Telegraph.

With a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Hertelendy had a promising career in classified military research. However, reluctance to be involved with the war in Vietnam prompted him to switch to a new profession — music critic.

For 35 years he has written reviews and critiques of classical music for two Bay Area-based newspapers, the Oakland Tribune and San Jose Mercury News. “Music has always been my avocation since I was a child,” he says.

Hertelendy, who speaks four languages, embodies flexibility through his successful transition from mechanical engineer to music critic. He advises students to “be as versatile and flexible as you can regarding your career,” he says. “My professor said it’s ok to specialize, but always be ready to specialize in new things.”

Now residing in Piedmont with his children, Hertelendy continues writing music reviews on the Internet and is working on a project to compile his father’s memories for translation. In his spare time, he also enjoys hiking and writing poems.


Categories: Featured in eGrad, Headlines, June 2014
Tags: ,

About Leo Zou

Leo is a bilingual journalist who studied at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining the program, he had worked for three years in Beijing as a staff reporter with China's national newspaper, covering a wide range of topics from social unrest to business development.