New Timothy Dwight master named: historian Mary Lui

test test
(Photo by Michael Marsland)

Historian Mary Lui will be the next master of Timothy Dwight College (TD), announced President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway in an email to the college community. She will begin her five-year term on July 1.

A member of the faculty of the Departments of American Studies and History, Lui is currently director of graduate studies in American Studies and received the Graduate Mentor Award in the Humanities last year. She is also affiliated with Yale’s programs in ethnicity, race, and migration and women, gender, and sexuality studies.

Of her new post as master, Lui said, “First and foremost, I look forward to getting to know the TD students and staff and foster a great family bond in the college.

“As an urban historian, I am really excited to be the master of the college closest to downtown New Haven and all the wonderful resources it has to offer,” she continued. “I look forward to opportunities for bringing the college and the city together.  For example, for the last five years we have spent almost all of our Saturdays in downtown New Haven taking the children to the New Haven Public library and their lessons at the Neighborhood Music School. Every holiday season we stop into the Creative Arts Workshop, where our children have taken classes, and every June we head for the Green to take in the Arts & Ideas Festival.  

“Because I am married to a trained scientist and have children who love watching shows like ‘Extreme Engineering’ and ‘Cosmos’ I am excited to develop programs for TD students that bring the humanities and sciences together,” she added. I” hope in my time as master I will be able to organize events that will bring more humanistic approaches to science, medicine, and technology as well as make science, math, and engineering more fun and accessible to non-specialists. My aim is simply to foster intellectual curiosity in the TD community and stand back and watch the fun.”

Lui specializes in Asian-American history, urban history, women and gender studies, and public history. Her undergraduate courses include “Asian American History, 1800 to the Present” and “Asian American History and Historiography,” which uses both recently published texts and established works that have shaped the field to consider the political and academic roots of Asian-American history and its relationship to “mainstream” U.S. history.                                                                              

Her first book, “The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City,” uses an unsolved murder case from 1909 to examine race, gender, and interracial sexual relations in the formation of New York City’s Chinatown. The work was awarded a 2007 best book prize for history from the Association of Asian American Studies. She is now working on a book titled “Making Model Minorities: Asian Americans, Race, and Citizenship in Cold War America at Home and Abroad,” which looks at Asian American and U.S. cultural diplomacy in Asia in the early years of the Cold War.

Lui came to Yale in 2000 after receiving her Ph.D. in history from Cornell University. She earned an A.B. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton University, with a certificate in East Asian studies. She has held appointments at the Chicago History Museum (as public historian), at Williams College (as the Charles Gaius Bolin Fellow and seminar instructor in history), and at the Museum of Chinese in the Americas (as a curator). She has published widely in journals and anthologies, and has been invited to give talks at the University of Chicago, Boston College, Leibniz University, the University of California-Berkeley, and Williams College, among others, and in universities in China and Japan.

The new master and her husband, Associate Master Vincent Balbarin, bring their collective passion for the arts, humanities, math, and sciences to Timothy Dwight. Lui was born in Hong Kong and raised in New Jersey — where, growing up in her family’s Chinese restaurant, she developed her love for food. Vincent Balbarin is Filipino American, born and raised in the Chicago area. An ardent basketball fan and a jazz enthusiast, he is a solutions architect for Yale Information Technology Services.

Their two sons, Mateo and Octavio, are 11 and 8 years old respectively, and are devoted to their Lakeland Terrier, Chloe. The brothers enjoy construction (whether with Legos or Minecraft), art, and printmaking. They also share a love of music: Mateo plays everything from American and Irish fiddle tunes to pop songs to classical pieces on his violin, and Octavio likes to tinker with his piano, picking out Muppets themes. The boys play soccer, swim, and ski, and Octavio also does ballet. They are enthusiastic sports fans and look forward to cheering on the TD intramural teams, said Lui, adding that all of the family members are eager to share their extensive and quirky collection of table-top games, ranging from classics such as Scrabble to lesser-known gems including King of Tokyo, Seven Wonders, and Dixit.

In their email, Salovey and Holloway thanked the members of the search committee — Deborah Davis (chair), Omer Bajwa, Richard Burger, Lydia Keating ’17, Carl Kreitzberg ’16, Maria Quinonez ’16, Kishwar Rizvi, and Daniel Stein ’15 — for their “thoughtful” work.

They also expressed gratitude to Master Jeff Brenzel for his service to the college and its students.