By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Robert Chinn Foundation inducted 4 new members to its Asian Hall of Fame for 2015. UFC Fighter Benson Henderson, billiards aficionado Jeanette “The Black Widow” Lee, Dancing with the Stars judge Carie Ann Inaba, and NBC News anchor Betty Nguyen were inducted at a ceremony at The Fairmont Hotel in downtown Seattle on Saturday night, June 8th.
Past inductees have included former Governor of Washington State Gary Locke, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, former U.S. Olympian Nathan Adrian, and former NFL Star and UW Football great Manu Tuiasosopo.
According to its credo, the Asian Hall of Fame “honors distinguished individuals of Asian Pacific descent whose personal achievements have contributed to the American experience.”
Henderson was the only inductee that could not make it to accept the award in person. Due to an undisclosed injury, he was unable to travel from his home in Phoenix to Seattle. However, Henderson’s mother, Song, was in attendance to accept the honor. Henderson’s mother resides in Federal Way, Washington where Henderson and his brother grew up. He was raised by his mother in Federal Way and it was his mother who suggested that he and his brother take up Tae Kwon Do to become more familiar with their Korean heritage. He was a standout wrestler at Decatur High School and went on to wrestle in college. He made a successful transition to mixed martial arts and became the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion. He currently competes in the UFC.
Henderson gave a video speech accepting the award in which he apologized to the audience for not being able to attend in person. He also thanked his mother for being there for him as always.
Inaba is best known as a judge on the popular ABC hit, “Dancing with The Stars.” She is also a successful choreographer. She got her start with the mid-1990s show, “In Living Color,” where she was one of the dancers known as a “Fly Girl.” In her acceptance speech, Inaba thanked everyone for making going after her dreams possible.
“Without people like you, there’s not people like me [that could pursue my dreams].”
Jeanette “the Black Widow” Lee is considered the first lady of billiards. “Courage is not the absence of fear,” Lee said during her acceptance speech. At age 13, Lee was diagnosed with scoliosis and had a steel rod implanted in her spine.
She has endured multiple surgeries to strengthen her back. The Korean American Lee is nicknamed “The Black Widow” because she would “eat people alive” when she got to the pool table. The 43-year-old Lee began playing in 1989 and ascended to the number one female pool player in the world during the 1990s. Lee auctioned off autographed cue balls, cue sticks, and her signature black glove which she uses when playing. She stated that she had never auctioned off a glove prior to the night at the Asian Hall of Fame.
Betty Nguyen is an award-winning journalist and is anchor for MSNBC’s “First Look” and “Early Today” on NBC. She also serves as a correspondent for The Today Show. Previously, Nguyen has worked for CNN as a correspondent and anchor. Nguyen, a Vietnamese American, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in broadcast journalism.
The evening benefited the Asian Hall of Fame and two charities: API Chaya and Rescue Freedom International. Both of the charities help to work to fight trafficking, slavery and provide aftercare for those who need it. The evening included a silent auction during a cocktail hour followed by a live auction during the dinner which included items donated by the inductees. (end)
The Robert Chinn Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was formed in June 1986 to honor the prominent business and community leader. Chinn founded the first Asian-owned bank in the United States.
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.