David Chen

Year of Graduation: 
David Chen

"I started looking at the things that would be going on at Exeter, like the club list, the courses that were offered and extracurricular activities and then I was very interested."

David Chen ’23 holds hard work in high esteem, it’s just the way he’s wired. It’s a trait he grew to appreciate watching his immigrant parents tend to their Chinese restaurant in Duluth, Minnesota. Chen recalls occasionally pitching in to help when things got busy, even taking orders over the phone before he was tall enough to see over the service counter.

“I remember being 8 [years old] and my mom went out to make a delivery and the phone rings.” he says. “None of the cooks speak English, so I actually had to climb onto the workspace where the phone is and then take the order on the counter.”

As time went on, Chen became well-versed in all aspects of the family business, from cooking in the kitchen to helping his parents translate and pay utility bills. But his father encouraged him to think beyond what he knew and to dream bigger.

“The first time I heard about Exeter was from my dad,” he says. “So, I started looking at the things that would be going on at Exeter, like the club list, the courses that were offered and extracurricular activities and then I was very interested.”

During his first two years on campus, Chen wasted no time exploring his new-found opportunities by joining the Mock Trial club, singing a cappella and playing violin. Thanks to Exeter’s robust athletic offerings and the Thompson Field House, he was able to continue to pursue his love for distance running across all three sports seasons.

“In middle school I was a distance runner in the fall and then I was a basketball player in the winter and then I sprinted in the spring. But since Exeter offers winter track, which isn't really possible in Minnesota, I decided just to go all distance running. That was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made, I really love the community.”

The upper figures he’ll pursue a STEM-related college degree, but with the encouragement of the faculty at Exeter, he’s found a passion for creative writing.

“Mr. Myers was the one that really kick-started my interest in personal essay writing, and Mr. Perdomo is a very experienced and accomplished writer, so it’s great seeing how a professional writer thinks about how they approach structure,” Chen says. “I go to Ms. Moriarty a lot during the writing center hours. She helps me a lot both with my assignments for English class, but also just my personal works that I'm writing outside of school.”

The budding scribe is using his honed skills as the news editor for The Exonian and to promote racial equity by contributing to a campus-wide initiative. As part of the Core Values Project, Chen and a handful of classmates are creating educational materials and short-form digital content focused on current events. The group’s structure is based on a national organization, Diversify Our Narrative, which works to promote anti-racism on campuses across the country. Chen is hoping to tailor the messaging based on feedback from his fellow Exeter students.

“We’re working with [Director of Equity and Inclusion] Dr. Bramlett and [Assistant Director of Equity and Inclusion] Mr. Pajaro-Marinez to develop a survey and interview students on their experience with anti-racism on campus and we’re going to try to compile that into a report by the end of spring term.”

There’s no denying the pandemic has shaped Chen’s time at Exeter, but the lesson he’s taken away, and hopes to impart to younger Exonians, is to seize every moment campus.

“The thing the pandemic has taught me is to not be afraid and to really capitalize on your time at Exeter.”