Siblings Margaret Liu ’77 and Paul Liu ’81 interviewed each other while at Colorado College for the 2022 Commencement ceremony, where Margaret served as Commencement speaker. Margaret, a Boettcher Scholar who majored in chemistry, attended Harvard Medical School and consults for several global health organizations, including the World Health Organization. Her pioneering research, starting 30 years ago, earned her the title “the mother of DNA vaccines.”
Paul Liu serves as chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Lifespan, the major hospital system for Brown University, and as a full professor of surgery there. After graduating from Colorado College with a degree in mathematics, Paul went on to study philosophy and physiology at the University College Oxford as a Marshall Scholar. He then attended Harvard Medical School and spent nine years training in general, plastic, and reconstructive surgery.
Listen to Margaret and Paul’s full interview:
Margaret Liu, as interviewed by Paul Liu
What is your greatest fear?
The fragmentation of society.
Where do you want to visit?
The moon or Mars.
What talent do you have that few people know about?
An incredible sense of smell.
What did it mean for you to be the commencement speaker at the 2022 Commencement Ceremony?
Super honored, but also terrified.
What message do you have for this year’s graduates?
Everyone usually talks about dreaming big and the focus is on accomplishing a lot. I realized how it’s really a lot of little, small things. Daily decisions, small actions, being snippy at somebody or being kind, that, in fact, really are what our legacies are.
What did you learn from the COVID-19 pandemic?
- There are always different ways of doing things.
- The pandemic reinforced how important preventive medicine is, preparing for pandemics or having vaccines so people don’t get sick. Because it’s not the same thing to get sick and then be treated and survive. You really want to not get sick.
- As a society, we really have to come together to protect our weakest people, the people who can’t protect themselves.
What was your most memorable block break?
One block break, several of us were staying at a place with horses, and we each had our own. It was just like a dream because you could gallop the horses and you took care of them, and we were out in this beautiful scenery. I’m not much of a horse rider, but I could ride well enough that it was just one of the most awesome experiences because of the sense of freedom and the animals and being out in nature.
Paul Liu, as interviewed by Margaret Liu
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Being a husband and a dad.
Which person, living or dead, do you admire most?
What’s a hard lesson you learned as a student attending CC?
You are no longer the best at stuff. You are going to really have to apply yourself in order to learn here.
What do you think CC does best?
It prepares students for life in the real world. It prepares you to think and to apply principles of learning across a wide spectrum of opportunities, and to tailor those, to take hold of them, and to have the confidence to apply them for your particular area.
You were recognized by the CC Alumni Association as the 2016 Benezet Award winner. What does that honor mean to you?
It was incredibly meaningful to me to feel that somehow something I had done warranted recognition on behalf of this school that is such a great place, prepared us well for our future careers. But then to say, “Hey, they’d like to give you this award thing,” it was very significant. I was very touched. It was incredibly meaningful for me.
Did you ever have an aha moment at CC that sparked what you’ve done since college?
Yes. I was a math major. There was another young man in all of our math classes because only four of us graduated with a math major. He was so much better than I was at math that I realized I better find something else to do with my life because I’m not going to succeed as a mathematician when there are Richard Koos in the world. Thanks, Richard, for sending me on a different trajectory, and I went to medical school instead.