On Friday, May 29th, I joined my pal Dr. Leroy Chiao, astronaut, entrepreneur, and special advisor to the Space Foundation, and his wife, Karen Chiao, at the China Institute’s Blue Cloud Gala at Gotham Hall in New York City.
Dr. Chiao, The Hon. Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., chairman of the Atlantic Council Board of Directors, former U.S. Ambassador to China, and former Governor of Utah; and Shirley and Walter Wang, founder and CEO of Plastpro Inc., and chairman and CEO of JM Eagle (respectively), were among four individuals being presented with 2015 Blue Cloud Awards.
More than 300 global leaders in business and culture, committed to building trust between China and the U.S. were in attendance at Gotham Hall to celebrate the Institute’s 89th anniversary. Notable attendees included Mark di Suvero, Kate Levin, Yue-Sai Kan, Henry Howard-Sneyd, David Stockman, Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, Deputy Consulate General Meifang Zhang and Jin Zhongxia.
2012 Blue Cloud Award recipient David Henry Hwang hosted the festivities. Hwang is a Tony Award winning playwright (M. Butterfly); the most-produced living opera librettist; a director of Columbia University’s School of the Arts’ M.F.A. program in playwriting; a screenwriter; and is currently a writer-producer for the Golden Globe-winning TV series “The Affair.”
The gala raised more than $1.1 million to support the China Institute’s programs in education, arts and culture, and business, and featured cocktails, dinner, a live auction, and a performance by celebrated Metropolitan Opera singer Hao Jiang Tian and his iSING! Festival singers.
China Institute (CI) Board Chairman Chien Chung Pei, the son of I.M. Pei, and Founder of Pei Partnership Architects, gave a preview of the Institute’s planned move to Lower Manhattan and the new state-of-the art facilities designed by his firm.
Opening in August 2015, China Institute’s expanded headquarters will meet its community’s growing needs for services and programs. The new facility, at 50,000 square feet (more than five times the size of its current facility), will have more gallery and classroom space, as well as the additions of an auditorium, multi-function room for performances, exhibits and films, tea house and gift shop. This expansion will enable the Institute to be an even more dynamic “gateway to China,” offering cultural and business programs that respond to a changing world and present the full diversity of China’s past, present and future to a new generation of global citizens.
“We are thrilled to recognize these exceptional individuals and supporters of the China Institute’s mission and enrichment programs,” said James Heimowitz, president of the China Institute. “We also celebrate the Institute’s long tradition of nurturing cultural understanding, dialogue and friendship for nearly 90 years, and we look forward to continuing this legacy and expanding our impact in the years to come.”
The great poets of antiquity in China praised those who aspired to and achieved great heights as “soaring amid blue clouds.”
The 2015 Blue Cloud Honorees exemplify all that China Institute holds of value: vision, ambition, integrity, great personal achievement, and a deeply informed understanding of China and its growing global importance. Jon Huntsman’s exceptional career in public service is marked not only by his role as Governor and U.S. Ambassador to China, but by his proactive advocacy for Chinese language studies. Shirley and Walter Wang’s trailblazing business achievements encompass an equivalent passion for philanthropic causes in China and the U.S. And Dr. Leroy Chiao has broken barriers, as an astronaut and commander, as well as at home.
2015 BLUE CLOUD GALA HONOREES
The Hon. Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.
Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., chairman of the Atlantic Council Board of Directors, began his career in public service as a staff assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He has served each of the four U.S. presidents since then in critical roles around the world, including Ambassador to Singapore, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Asia, U.S. Trade Ambassador, and most recently, U.S. Ambassador to China. In all three Senate confirmations, he received unanimous votes. He was twice elected governor of Utah, and the state was named Best Managed state in America under his administration. In recognition of his service, he was elected Chairman of the Western Governors Association, serving 19 states throughout the region.
Governor Huntsman currently serves on the boards of Ford Motor Company, Caterpillar Corporation, Chevron Corporation, Huntsman Corporation, the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. He has served as a Visiting Fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, as well as a distinguished lecturer at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Fluent in Mandarin, Governor Huntsman has been a strong advocate of Chinese language studies; as Governor of Utah, he supported an increase of workforce in Chinese language education that supported approximately 100 secondary schools offering Mandarin Chinese classes; at that time, the highest percentage of any state in the nation. Huntsman is the father of seven children, including two adopted daughters from China and India. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and has eight honorary doctoral degrees.
Dr. Leroy Chiao
Leroy Chiao is a former NASA astronaut and International Space Station commander. He holds academic appointments at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, and he is Special Advisor for Human Spaceflight to the Space Foundation.
Dr. Chiao has worked extensively in government and commercial space programs, and he has held leadership positions in commercial ventures and at NASA.Dr. Chiao left NASA in December 2005 following a 15-year career with the agency. A veteran of four space missions, he most recently served as Commander and NASA Science Officer of Expedition 10 aboard the International Space Station. He has logged over 229 days in space, over 36 hours of which were spent in Extra-Vehicular Activity (spacewalks). From June to September 2009, he served as a member of the White House appointed Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, and he currently serves on the NASA Advisory Council.
A native English speaker, Dr. Chiao also speaks Mandarin Chinese and Russian. He has flown space missions and worked closely with Russian, Japanese and European astronauts and their affiliated space agencies. As a Space Station Commander and Space Shuttle Mission Specialist, he was also a certified Co-Pilot of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In September 2006, Dr. Chiao became the first American to visit the Astronaut Research and Training Center of China. There, he met the first two national Chinese astronauts, Yang Liwei and Fei Junlong. Dr. Chiao is a Fellow of the Explorers Club and member of the International Academy of Astronautics and the Committee of 100. Dr. Chiao also serves in various capacities to further space education in the U.S. and China.
He joined China Speakers Agency in 2015, the international speakers bureau with a China focus, to share his professional knowledge and unique insights with a broader range of audiences. Dr. Chiao earned a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MS and Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Shirley & Walter Wang
Shirley and Walter Wang’s entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors are rooted in a family tradition of business excellence.
Shirley Wang founded Plastpro Inc. in 1994 and also serves as its Chief Executive Officer. Since 1994, Plastpro, headquartered in Los Angeles, has been a leading U.S. manufacturer of fiberglass entry doors, offering exceptional service and reliability. Plastpro’s customer-focused philosophy resulted in the highest-quality products on the market. The Plastpro product line is offered nationally through The Home Depot, Stock Building Supply and other national wholesale distributors.
Walter Wang is President and CEO of JM Eagle Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of plastic pipe. Headquartered in Los Angeles, his company employs more than 1,600 people in 23 plants throughout the United States and Mexico. Mr. Wang started his career at Formosa Plastics in Taiwan as a factory machinery operator, and within two years was promoted to internal corporate consulting project leader. In 1990, Mr. Wang was transferred to J-M Manufacturing Co. Inc. (JM) as a sales coordinator charged with improving J-M sales and reversing the erosion of its competitive stance in the building products industry. Under his leadership, J-M re-engineered the sales process, identified new markets and developed an Internet-based B-to-B management system. After serving in a variety of capacities, he earned the title of President in October 2000. Through significant capital investments and without adding head count, J-M grew annual sales from US$200 million in 1990 to over US$1 billion in 2005. In November 2005, Mr. Wang acquired 100 percent of J-M from Formosa Plastics, creating a fully independent, stand-alone company. Less than two years later, J-M acquired PW Eagle, the second largest PVC pipe maker in North America, to form JM Eagle, subsequently reaching combined annual sales of more than $1.6 billion.
The Wangs are supporters of the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum, which opened in October 2008. The museum seeks to educate the public on some of the nation’s worst problems: illegal drugs and trafficking.The Wangs have also been dedicated supporters of projects to address pressing social and healthcare problems in China, including seed-stage and ongoing support for the China AIDS Initiative, an awareness and prevention program. Through this organization, they have funded public service announcements which have reached 300 million people to help stop the spread of AIDS in China. Other charitable foundations that the Wangs support are Doctors Without Borders and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.
About China Institute
China Institute advances a deeper understanding of China through programs in education, culture, business and art with the belief that cross-cultural understanding strengthens our global community. Founded in 1926 by a group of American and Chinese educators, China Institute in America is the oldest bicultural, non-profit organization in America to focus exclusively on China. The organization promotes the appreciation of Chinese heritage, and provides the historical context for understanding contemporary China. Programs, activities, courses and seminars are offered on the visual and performing arts, culture, history, music, philosophy, language and literature for the general public, children and teachers, as well as for business.
Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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