New scholarship honors struggle to succeed
March 22, 2007
Social activist and retired Presbyterian minister Paul Louie has donated $100,000 to establish a new scholarship fund to help educationally disadvantaged students at San Francisco State University. The Louie Loy and Leong Shee Memorial Scholarship honors the memory of Louie's father and mother who emigrated from China in 1882 and 1909 and demonstrated resourcefulness, perseverance and skill despite misfortune and anti-Chinese discrimination.
A member of the Los Angeles Human Rights commission for 16 years, Louie said that he wants the gift to help the kind of poor and disenfranchised people he met through his work. "I remember well how much difference a helping hand could mean to someone who was already working hard," he said. "I also recall the days before equal opportunity programs existed and the struggles to establish them."
The scholarship will be awarded and administered through San Francisco State's Educational Opportunity Program, which provides academic and financial assistance to low-income and educationally disadvantaged students. Recipients can use the funding for student fees, housing and living expenses.
"The students who will benefit from the Louie Loy and Leong Shee Memorial Scholarship have a burning desire to get a college diploma but have struggled economically all their lives," said Penny Saffold, SF State vice president and dean of students. "Some are foster youth who don't even have the benefit of parental psychological support to help get them through. Support like this is crucial."
Many of the students eligible for the scholarship are, like Louie, one of the first in their family to pursue a college education. At a campus ceremony to present the gift, Louie, who holds a master's degree from Harvard University's Divinity School, recalled the sacrifices his parents made for his education. "Generations always stand on the shoulders of the ones who come before them," he said. "It is my strongest hope that students who receive this scholarship never forget where they came from, work hard to prepare themselves, and find ways to give back to their communities."
Louie's father emigrated from the Guangdong Province of China just two months before the United States Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prevented Chinese laborers from entering the country and forbid citizenship. In the shadow of this adversity the couple raised 11 children and Loy built businesses in Seattle, Washington.
Louie and his wife, Emma Woo Louie, have been active in civil rights efforts for the past 47 years. They campaigned against the real estate lobby's Proposition 14 in 1964, which rolled back the Rumford Fair Housing Act that prohibited discrimination in housing. Both have also worked to preserve Chinese culture and history in the United States and are active in the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco since returning to the Bay Area from Southern California where Louie co-founded the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. Mrs. Louie is the author of Chinese American Names: Tradition and Transition (MacFarland, 1998), widely regarded as a definitive work on the subject.
-- Denize Springer
Photo: Courtesy of Paul Louie