Chinatown native Amy Chin Guen, pioneering social worker and community activist, awarded honorary degree by Boston College during Commencement exercises

Amy Chin Guen received her honorary degree from Boston College during the May 22 Commencement Exercises. She is pictured center, with Boston College President William P. Leahy, S.J. (left) and Boston College Board of Trustees Chair John F. Fish, Chairman and CEO, Suffolk Construction Company. (Photo Credit: Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College Office of University Communications.)

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (June 1, 2017) — At its 141st Commencement Exercises on May 22, Boston College presented an honorary Doctor of Social Science degree to longtime Boston-area community activist Amy Chin Guen, who earned a master’s degree in social work from the University in 1952.

Still going strong at age 93, Guen will attend her 65th Boston College alumni reunion this spring. In addition to a long, accomplished career as a social worker, she has worked tirelessly as a community activist and leader in Boston’s Chinatown – her childhood home – to oppose displacement of the neighborhood from urban renewal.

The first American-born daughter of a Chinese domicile merchant family that held education in high regard, Guen was sent to China as a girl following her mother’s death, returning to Chinatown after World War II. After earning degrees from Regis College and BC’s Graduate School of Social Work – and wedding chemist and community leader Edward J. Guen (who passed away in 2011) – she directed social case work at Holy Ghost and Youville hospitals (now Spaulding Hospital) in Cambridge.

Guen trained many young professionals and served on the state’s first social work licensing board, advocating for hospice care, which did not exist at the time. With her multi-lingual education and understanding of cultural needs, Guen facilitated funding for nonprofit service agencies to assist underserved immigrants, including the Asian American Civic Association, the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center, South Cove Manor Nursing Facilities Foundation and the South Cove Community Health Center,  which continue to thrive.

She was honored last fall with the Chinese Historical Society of New England’s Sojourner Award. At the event, “Auntie Amy” — as she is known in Chinatown — pledged to continue to work as her health permits, inspiring all present.

Guen’s Boston College honorary degree citation read, in part:

This devoted wife, mother, and pioneering social worker was an early proponent of hospice care in Massachusetts … A petite powerhouse known as “Auntie Amy” for her service to Chinatown, she has received lifetime achievement awards from the National Association of Social Workers Massachusetts Chapter and her undergraduate alma mater, Regis College. When the Chinese Historical Society of New England honored her with its Sojourner Award in 2016, she pledged to continue to work as long as her health permits, inspiring all present. 


In addition to Guen, Boston College President William P. Leahy, S.J. presented honorary degrees to U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.); Tiffany Gueye ’00, Ph.D.’07, CEO of non-profit organization BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life); film and television star Chris O’Donnell ’92; and Fr. Leo B. Shea, M.M. ’60, missioner for Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

Commencement was held in Alumni Stadium. Some 4,000 Boston College students will receive undergraduate and graduate degrees at separate ceremonies held around campus.

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