By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Every year, the Northwest Asian Weekly recognizes some of the most influential community leaders in the area at the Diversity at the Top awards dinner and gala. This year, the paper honors 10 individuals who have fought to break through the bamboo ceiling to get to the top.
Growing up in south central Los Angeles wasn’t easy for Paul Killpatrick, president of Seattle Central Community College and vice chancellor for district-wide student services for Seattle Community Colleges. “I always knew I was going to college,” Killpatrick said during his acceptance speech. But at 16, he found himself not interested in education, so he dropped out of high school. He explained that people sometimes drop out because they aren’t challenged enough or are bored, not just because they can’t do the work. Killpatrick ended up finishing his GED and later attended college.
Killpatrick said at the end of his speech, “It doesn’t matter where you start in life, it matters where you end.”
Mark Mitsui is the self-proclaimed “world’s oldest brown belt,” and the 12th president of North Seattle Community College. Two of his proudest moments were leading a team that secured a $2.4 million Department of Education grant and having South Seattle Community College be designated as an AANAPISI (Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander-Serving Institution).
He has gone to conferences on the model minority myth and works to combat the myth in his job.
A community influence, Paul Ishii, said he wasn’t good at community service and insists he’s still not good at it, though it was obvious he was being modest. “I didn’t go to church,” he said, with humor. But actions speak louder than words. Ishii is president-elect of the Rotary Club in Seattle, the largest chapter in the world.
He’s slated to take the helm in July 2012. In addition to his general manager position at the Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle, he’s also a board member of InvestED, a nonprofit organization that provides money to thousands of needy secondary school students for specific necessities.
Corporation game changers
Representatives from various corporations have also made it to the top.
Sherri Wade, vice president of operations at State Farm Pacific Northwest, is originally from New Jersey. She inherited her parents’ leadership style. Wade’s father once told her, “Anybody can take anything from you, but they cannot take away your education.” Wade said if she weren’t working in insurance, she would be teaching children and enhancing their education experience instead.
Patrick Yalung, president of Wells Fargo of the Northwest, has four children and seems to have a great work vs. life balance. He gives credit to his amazing wife who keeps their family grounded. He also relies on his amazing team members at Wells Fargo and said he feels fortunate to work for a great company. The company supports many by giving back to the community, though he has to prioritize at times. “Sometimes, I just have to say no,” he said frankly.
Sue Anderson, vice president and general manager of CenturyLink for the Seattle Metro area, is another busy bee.
She has worked in the technical communications industry for a while, though it wasn’t something she had always had a background in. She explained that she spent time with engineers and managers to receive technical training. Learning side-by-side with her employees was how she learned about construction engineering.
Dr. Dianne Chong is one of the few women leaders at the top at Boeing. As the honoree with the longest title, she is the vice president of Assembly, Factory & Support Technology in the Boeing Engineering, Operations & Technology organization. Humbled to be honored, Chong avoided the limelight and stated that she works with highly qualified individuals.
Sung Yang, who used to be a lawyer, jokingly said he would be a race car driver if he weren’t working for the public sector now. In a room full of lawyers, he announced that he likes to drive fast.
Yang, like Yalung, also gives credit to his wife, who he said made everything possible for him. In his line of work as chief of staff for King County Executive Dow Constantine, he said, “No two days are alike, and there’s never an end to the daily drama.” And he actually enjoys that aspect of his job.
Sung said he chose to work in public service instead of working as a lawyer because he gets to tackle big societal issues that will have a lasting effect on the community. For that reason, he recommends that young people choose a career in public service.
Justice-elect Steven Gonzalez recently made headlines when he was appointed to Washington State’s Supreme Court, and he is the second Latino ever to be in such a prominent position.
To everyone’s surprise, Gonzalez started his speech in Mandarin Chinese, said a few sentences in Japanese, and finally continued in English. Like Killpatrick, Gonzalez grew up in southern California, in Pomona, which he described as “the murder capital of the country, at that time.”
He said he didn’t have much and often exaggerated his age in order to work. But he emphasized the importance of education. Gonzalez has come a long way, but he has made history in the state of Washington.
And Killpatrick appropriately quoted Robert Strauss, “Success is like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired, you quit when the gorilla is tired.” All of the top honorees have wrestled their own different gorillas to make it to where they are today.
Executive director of the InterIm Community Development Association, Hyeok Kim, hosted the evening’s festivities. (end)
Nina Huang can be reached at email@example.com.