College of Science & Engineering Alumni Newsletter

Fall 2000

The Road to Assimilation

    Mary Cheng (BS ’87, Computer Science) was born in China and grew up in Taiwan. In late 1970’s, many of her relatives had immigrated to the United States and Canada. In order to stay closer to her parents, Mary and her husband Joseph, with an adventurous mind, decided to join the migration in 1977.
    Before immigration, she had obtained her master degree in Western Comparative Literatures from Tamkang University and worked as an instructor there. After she came to San Francisco, she worked at Chinese Newcomers Services, a social service organization in Chinatown, helping new immigrants while she herself was just one among them. With the training in apprehending literatures, she was sensitive to other people’s feeling and usually had better understanding of the hardships that new immigrants confronted. Their road to assimilation was not and is not an easy one. For Mary and Joseph, the first couple years in the United States were not only a time to adjust to the new environment, but also to survive and to find a better life.
    After their second child was born, they both agreed that it would be more beneficial to all of them if Mary could spend more time with the children. Therefore, she chose to stay home. At the same time, she tried to prepare herself for the future. Time and money were the limiting factors, so it was kind of luxurious to think about going back to school to get another degree. Nevertheless, Mary applied to U.C. Berkeley and San Francisco State University. U.C. Berkeley did not accept applicants pursuing a second undergraduate degree. However, San Francisco State accepted her in the Computer Science Department. Mary was very glad to have the opportunity to be a student again. Most importantly, it was the right school for her. The campus was not too big so she did not feel lost.  Her classmates were friendly and helpful. The class size was small, and students respected their professors. It has been a while since she graduated, but all these years she always grateful for the fact that SFSU opened its door for her to pursue a different interest in her career.
    Mary got a job in the Alameda Naval Air Station right after her graduation. As soon as she settled down, Joseph was thinking about his turn to fulfill his dream. During that same year, Joseph started his own small businesses. Taking advantage of being bilingual, he began with international trading. Besides trading, Joseph utilized his past work experiences to start warehousing and transportation operations. For several years, he struggled and managed all three businesses by himself. Seven years ago, the Alameda Naval Air Base announced that it would close down. Even though Mary enjoyed her programming job very much and won various awards there, she had to resign. Meanwhile Joseph’s businesses needed more assistance. He was more than happy to have Mary work together with him. They have been enjoying being partners in managing their successful businesses.
    As they are approaching the ‘over the hill’ age, they cannot help but to think about what they have accomplished in the past and what they are going to do to leave behind in the future. They are thankful to their parents’ effort and support that lead them to the right tracks. They appreciate society for giving them the opportunity to prosper. Their two children are grown up and on their own now. Jennifer is studying at UCSF; and Vincent is at UC Irvine. It was the right time to explore other meaningful things for them. Last year, Mary read from the past issue of the College of Science & Engineering Alumni newsletter about Dr. & Mrs. Kenneth Fong and their $10,000 scholarship donation. The article inspired her to set up one scholarship endowment in memory of her father, Mr. C.Y. Chow. Her father was the principal of the elementary school she attended.  He taught German in the university in Taiwan before he went to Canada to retire. Mary’s impression of her father was that he always read whenever he had time, and he read with enjoyment. She believes that it is appropriate to remember her father by setting up an educational investment.

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Updated by Lannie Nguyen-Tang on June 27, 2001