He Pengyu
J.D.’07, Harvard Law School

Prof. Alford and I first met more than 16 years ago. I worked as his research assistant, authored a thesis on China’s civil society under his supervision and was involved in his pro bono work for Special Olympics International. Over the years, Prof. Alford has been an invaluable teacher and mentor, and I am deeply indebted to him for my intellectual, professional and personal growth. 

In the brief space here, I would like to express how Prof. Alford has inspired and touched me in the following ways. First, I’ve admired his principled and pragmatic approach to engage China. He is principled in his intellectual convictions, professional integrity and personal commitments towards a vision of a more just, humane and modernized China. And he is pragmatic in his lifetime engagement with China, which is deeply enriched and informed by his nuanced and sophisticated understandings of Chinese history and society. His work for Special Olympics International is an exemplar of his philosophy and practice: striving for a more rule-of-law-based China must be grounded on understanding and changing its society. 

Second, Prof. Alford’s efforts to combine scholarly pursuits and real-world impacts have influenced me profoundly. I’ve much appreciated Prof. Alford’s multidisciplinary approach to intellectual inquiry. To me, he is not just a legal scholar, but also a Chinese historian and sociologist. More importantly, he does not confine his life in the ivory tower, and actively seeks out opportunities to better the lives of others, particularly the vulnerable and downtrodden. His long-term focus on disability issues in China and internationally attests to this.    

Last but not least, Prof. Alford is a very humble and kind human being. Being a fatherly figure, he sometimes blushes, shy like a boy. 

In the spring of 2004, I first met Prof. Alford in his office hours. During our first meeting, he asked if I would like to work as his research assistant. Now, more than 16 years later, I feel just as lucky as I was then that I’ve got to know someone as kind as Prof. Alford.