Interview with alumni Tina and David Walton, Honorary Chairs of the Charter Hill Society

Tina (‘91, East Asian Languages and Economics) and David Walton (‘86, JD in Law) both graduated from UC Berkeley, though they only first met after their graduation, when they were both living in Seattle. Their marriage led them first to Hong Kong, and eventually to their permanent home in Singapore. There, David is the Deputy Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer for BOC Aviation and Tina is a published author. Her young adult novel Last Days of the Morning Calm and her short story in the Anthology A Book of Hugs, Stories to Keep you Company, are available through Tina’s website). David and Tina joined the Charter Hill Society to bring Cal programming to fellow Cal Bears in Singapore and strengthen the local community there. As honorary chairs, they recently made their gift to Fiat Lux Scholarships in order to support students who may otherwise not be able to afford the cost of tuition. “We both would like to play some small part in helping others get through Berkeley free from the pressure that student debt will inevitably create.”

How did your journey at Berkeley lead you to Singapore?

Tina: I had a wonderful undergraduate experience at Berkeley that included studying abroad. Through the Education Abroad Program (EAP), I was able to spend a year studying Japanese as an exchange student. As a Korean-American, I wanted to understand a culture that had played a huge part in my own personal history as my grandparents had grown up under colonial Korea, and the EAP program allowed me this opportunity. After graduation, I was inspired by professor Barry Eichengreen’s macroeconomic classes and applied for an internship at the Federal Reserve Board. It was an amazing two years of professional growth and shortly after I enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Economics at the University of Washington. As a graduate student in Seattle, I met David and we married shortly thereafter. Our shared history since has led us to Singapore.

David: We first met in Seattle, and we found out immediately that we had a lot in common, beyond just our Berkeley degrees. I’d recently returned from a year living in Tokyo while working on secondment to the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan. My dream was to move to Hong Kong to help open up a branch office for the law firm where I was a partner, and fortunately, Tina agreed to join in on the adventure. We married in December 1994 and six months later moved to Hong Kong. We traveled extensively in Asia and first fell in love with Singapore during that time. Although our stay in Hong Kong only lasted a couple of years, we continued our interest in and travels to Asia. Eventually, in 2014, we were offered an opportunity to live in Singapore when I was offered a new job with a Singapore-based aircraft leasing company, BOC Aviation, that had been my client some 20 years earlier when I was practicing law in Hong Kong. It’s a testament to the friendships and relationships that you build over the years – my advice is to be intentional about staying in touch with friends and colleagues. It’s personally enriching, and it may lead to interesting paths in the future.

Tina, you received your degrees in East Asian Languages and Economics, followed by a Master’s in Creative Writing. How have these passions played out in your life and how do you see them connected? What inspired you to become a children’s book author?

Tina: I’ve always been drawn to research, whether it’s looking at past earnings and data on companies or countries to explain current phenomena or predict future behavior. However, I dropped out of the paid workforce to raise children. At the time, I spent a lot of time reading to my children and realized there weren’t very many books regarding Asian history in children’s literature. I began to learn about certain segments of Korean history and this led me to want to share my findings with young people. Through historical fiction, I hope young people will get a flavor for a different culture and history that can perhaps help them make sense of how things are today and find hope for tomorrow.

Tina's story "Short and Sweet" appears in the anthologyA Book of Hugs, Stories to Keep you Companypublished in 2020.

Cover: Last Days of Morning Calm

Last Days of the Morning Calm. By Tina Walton