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Date: June 1, 1999

Electrical Engineering Major is Princeton's 1999 Valedictorian

Chan Vee Chong of Singapore Completes Degree in Three Years

Princeton, N.J. -- An electrical engineering major from Singapore is the valedictorian for the Class of 1999, and a classics major who studied at the Vatican is the class salutatorian. Chan Vee Chong delivered the valedictory address at today's commencement; Thomas Wickham Schmidt of Alexandria, Va., gave the salutatory oration, which by Princeton tradition was in Latin.


Chong completed his BSE degree in electrical engineering after just three years at Princeton. He studied on a full scholarship, called the Glaxo Wellcome-EDB Scholarship, from the Singapore Economic Development Board. He plans to attend graduate school and work for the Economic Development Board after graduating. His parents, See Lee Chong and Kwai Chan Chong, live in Singapore.

At Class Day yesterday, Chong was awarded the James Hayes-Edgar Palmer Prize in Engineering and was named co-recipient of the G. David Forney Jr. Prize, given by the Department of Electrical Engineering. At the start of his senior year, Chong won the Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award, which is given annually to the student with the highest academic standing at the end of the junior year. During his three years here, Chong was active with the Southeast Asia Society and helped found a new group, the Singapore Society. He was elected to Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honor Society.

Chong completed a senior independent project, under the direction of Professor Hisashi Kobayashi, in which he explored an improved method of decoding that is applicable in mobile telecommunications, such as cellular telephone calls. Chong explained that in mobile communications systems, the traditional decoding scheme processes the incoming signal in two steps, and the end result might contain errors. Chong investigated an approach, called iterative decoding, that combines modified versions of the two steps in a repeating process that reduces errors. This iterative scheme is similar to the method for completing a crossword puzzle, in which some of the across clues help solve the down clues, which in turn provide more across answers.


As a classics major with extensive training in Latin, Schmidt was well prepared for giving the traditional salutatory oration in Latin. In addition to studying the language for four

semesters at Princeton, Schmidt spent two months during the summer before his senior year in Rome studying with one of the Latin secretaries at the Vatican. The Latin secretaries are

responsible for translating all the Vatican's papers into Latin. Schmidt's work in Rome was made possible by the Charles A. Steele Prize, an annual award given by the Classics Department.

Schmidt completed his senior thesis on the subject of Cicero's De Officiis, under the guidance of Associate Professor of Classics Christian Wildberg. De Officiis is an expression of Stoic moral philosophy, in which Cicero "equates what is right with what is expedient," Schmidt said. Schmidt analyzed Cicero's conclusion that it is ultimately in one's own best interest to do the right thing, even if it does not appear to be so at the moment.

Schmidt competed for two years on the heavyweight crew team, served as publisher of the Princeton Tory and participated in the Campus Crusade for Christ. A graduate of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Schmidt plans to attend Yale Law School in the fall. He is the son of Paul and Cathryn Schmidt of Alexandria.