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Penn is awarding an architecture diploma to Chinese architect and writer Lin Huiyin (Photo from Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain).

Renowned Chinese writer and architect Lin Huiyin will be awarded a posthumous diploma from the Stuart Weitzman School of Design at the May 2024 commencement ceremony. 

Lin, born in Hangzhou, China, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1927. She was part of one of the first cohorts of Chinese students at Penn. Upon arriving at Penn, she was unable to enroll in the architecture school because it was seen as improper for women to work at night with young men. She could not receive a diploma in architecture like her male counterparts and instead completed her bachelor’s degree in fine arts and took architecture classes on the side. 

“From the records, it was clear she wanted to be an architecture student and architect, and she was a very successful one at that. We looked into it more and more it was clear the reason she wasn’t given a degree was because she was a woman,” Weitzman Dean and Paley Professor Fritz Steiner said in the press release. “It’s not right and this is an opportunity to correct that.”

Lin and her husband, Liang Sicheng, attended Penn together, where he received a degree in architecture. They were famous for preserving and reconstructing historic buildings and structures throughout China.

Lin was also involved in well-known projects like designing the Chinese national flag, the railway station in Jilin, China, and the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square.

“If it weren’t for them, we would have no record of so many ancient Chinese styles, which simply disappeared," Lin’s niece, well-known architect and artist Maya Lin, said on her aunt and uncle in a Smithsonian Magazine interview in 2017. 

Lin died at the age of 51 in Beijing, China, in 1955 and was survived by her two children and husband. 

Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning Lin Zhongjie and Chinese architect and professor at Southeast University Tong Ming created an exhibit to honor the memory of the cohort of Chinese architecture students at Penn from 1918 to 1941. 

The exhibition is titled “Building in China: A Century of Dialogues on Modern Architecture” and runs through Jan. 15, 2024, at the Penn Wharton China Center.