By Assunta Ng
Much was said, at his funeral, on what Ark Chin did for the Kin On Nursing Home and Chinese orphanages. Yet, what he contributed in education and politics was barely touched upon.
Chin, former chairman of KCM engineering firm and former regent of Western Washington University and the University of Washington, passed away on Nov. 13 at the age of 87.
When former Gov. Gary Locke, now U.S. Ambassador to China, declared that he would not run for a third term in 2004, I asked Chin to help us raise scholarship money to honor the first Chinese American governor in the whole country.
“What’s your goal?” was the first thing he asked.
“$20,000, $30,000?” I replied, figuring that was good enough to announce at Locke’s appreciation dinner.
“You have to think big,” he challenged. “How about a scholarship endowment in his name for the UW School of Public Affairs?”
“How much are you talking about?” I asked.
“$100,000,” he said. He knew it was a good number because he was the first Asian American to endow a scholarship at the UW School of Business and Engineering School.
I was sold on the idea, but the big number and deadline (three years to raise the funds) scared me. What Chin said made sense though, for the long term.
“Will you chair the fundraising committee?” I challenged back.
“Yes,” he said without hesitation, as if he was glad I asked.
We raised the money in less than six months because of Chin’s name. A couple of folks just gave money without asking many questions when they learned that Chin was raising funds for the endowment. Bill Gates Sr. gave $50,000 through the Gates Foundation, and a Republican CEO gave $5,000 even though the endowment was in the name of a Democrat governor.
Many people lend their names for good causes but shy away from actually getting their hands dirty. But Chin was hands-on, recruiting members for the scholarship committee, following up on those who hadn’t paid (a tough job), counting the money with me to make sure the record was correct. He gave time, money, energy, and most importantly, his passion.
Mind you, he was 80 years old at the time.
Chin and his wife, Winnie, raised six successful children. But he was also a community father to many, giving advice, encouragement, and money to support the younger generation. One of those who benefited was Ambassador Locke. When Locke ran for governor in 1996, it was tough at the beginning. Money was critical in the early stages of the campaign. Chin and a few others quickly jumped in to donate the maximum amount and continued to raise cash for the operation.
“It’s not enough to have talent,” he told me last September. “You need money to support talent.”
I recalled that Chin never missed any of Locke’s community events. Every time the Asian Weekly took a photo of him and his wife with Locke, Chin requested a copy for his photo album.
Thank you, Ark, for always inspiring and challenging us to make a difference in the community. Thank you, Winnie, for always cheering for Ark to do the right thing. (end)