By Ling-Mei Wong
The Asian American Civic Association gala took place aboard the Odyssey Cruise Ship on June 7. Despite torrential rain from Tropical Storm Andrea, 95 percent of the guests attended the gala to raise $260,000 for the agency’s language and job-training programs.
“The AACA is all about helping people reach their full potential,” said Eric Beyer, president and CEO of Tufts Medical Center.
The annual community service award recipients were Bob Rivers, president and COO of Eastern Bank, and state Rep. Donald Wong.
Rivers strives for greater minority representation. During his time at Eastern Bank, the board went from being 92 percent white and male to roughly 60 percent, welcoming more diversity. “I’m always looking for opportunities to listen and learn,” he said.
Representing the 9th Essex District, Wong has a long history of community activism. “Public service and paying it forward was instilled in me by my parents and grandparents,” he said.
Two AACA students were recognized for outstanding achievement. Haider Alhemayri received the Richard & Susan Smith Family Foundation College Achievement Award. He came from Iraq with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, but his poor English limited him to cashier work. After completing the Next Steps Transitional English Program, Alhemayri was accepted to Boston University’s BioScience Academy. He graduated in April and is now a research assistant at the university.
Thupten Samdup received the George A. Russell Jr. Career Advancement Award. He came to the United States as a Tibetan refugee from Nepal in 2002, working odd jobs. With an interest in landscaping, Samdup enrolled in the Building Energy Efficient Maintenance Skills program in 2007, became a top maintenance technician and is now a building supervisor assistant at Winn Residential.
“In this country, you can reach your dream if you work hard,” Samdup said.
The gala also featured the photo essay exhibit, “Their Courage to be New,” depicting portraits of 10 immigrants and telling their stories in a booklet.
The portraits displayed included John Corcoran and Mary Merrigan, parents of Corcoran Jennison Companies’ chairman Joseph Corcoran; John Denison Crocker, great great grandfather of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s president and CEO Eric Schultz; Frank J. Fritchie, grandfather of New England College of Optometry’s president Clifford Scott; Mei Yee Man Li, mother of Boston Harbor Association’s president Vivien Li; Evelyn Clarke, mother of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts’ executive director of multicultural marketing Juliette Mayers; Chin Sen, grandfather of BJ’s CEO Laura Sen; Joseph Tye, father of then United Liquors’ president A. Raymond Tye; David Wong, entrepreneur and owner of Empire Garden; and Daniel and Christina Wong, parents of Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong.
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