Yale Asian Alumni Reunion Recap: Landmark Event as Yale Celebrates 160 Years of Asian Alumni
The first ever Yale Asian Alumni Reunion (April 11-13, 2014) was a smashing success!
Over 300 alumni covering seven generations from as far away as China, Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, and Mauritius gathered together for the inaugural Yale Asian Alumni Reunion last weekend. Keynote speakers reflecting the rich diversity of our Asian heritage included returning Ambassador to China and former Secretary of Commerce and Washington State Governor Gary Locke, PepsiCo Chair and CEO Indra Nooyi, Tony Award-Winning playwright David Henry Hwang, and jazz pianist/composer and MacArthur “genius” grant Fellow Vijay Iyer. The event marked the 160th anniversary of the graduation of Yung Wing, Yale’s first Asian alumnus in 1854 and the first Chinese to graduate from a US university.
This was one of the most powerful and innovative group of leaders in diverse fields of business, politics, and the arts and sciences ever assembled at Yale by any standard. Yale women held up held up their half of the sky with “Tiger Mom” and Yale Law School professor Amy Chua joining the original “Tiger Mom,” Dr. Hesung Koh, the first Asian Yale Law School professor and mother of six professional children, 11 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and two senate confirmations.
Speakers also including renowned architect Billie Tsien, ground-breaking international lawyer Alice Young, and legendary activist and recipient of the 2014 Association of Asian Amercan Yale Alumni, Karen Narasaki. Also on hand to share their wisdom and wit were Yale’s most popular professor and first Asian residential college master, cognitive neuroscientist Marvin Chun, UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center Director Emeritus and founder of the Yale’s Asian American Student Association, Don Nakanishi, veteran film producer, founder and director of Hawaii’s Academy of Creative Media, and first Asian studio production head at TriStar/Columbia, Chris Lee, Disgrasian blogger Jen Wang, and Forbes 30 under 30 social media advertising phenom, Victor Wong, bringing “MadMen into the Digital Age.”
Across continents and generations, Yale’s Asian alumni gathered to share our stories and connect with one another: first generation, diaspora, long-time American, nationals who went abroad and those who returned to their home countries. Indra Nooyi urged us to embrace our culture and be “authentic.” Clinton speech writer, “Accidental Asian,” and “True Patriot” Eric Liu encouraged us to stop looking at ourselves in the mirror of OPE (Other People’s Expectations). This event could only have happened at Yale, in America, and within the global Asian community.
In one of the weekend’s most touching moments, Gary Locke and PianPian Xu reconnected while sharing the stage with Yale President Peter Salovey, Association of Yale Alumni Board of Governors Chair, Jimmy Lu, and White House policy advisor, Malcolm Lee. Yale alumna, PianPian first met Gary as one of the middle school students lining the road to greet him on his first visit to his ancestral village in Toisan. Looking to the future, alumni from the Philippines, Mauritius, Hong Kong, and Korea promised to take AAAYA global and start chapters in their home countries on their return.
This event also served Yale as a social media model for all Yale Alumni event with a record-breaking one million Twitter impressions!