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20th Asian alumni banquet brings hundreds to Chinatown

People at the CAA banquet

From left, emeritus trustee Martin Tang '70, Johnson School Dean Joe Thomas, Frances Chu (Rod Chu's mother), Rod Chu, MBA '71 (this year's honoree), and Cornell President Emeritus Frank Rhodes at the CAAA banquet. See larger image

Just beyond the decorated arches and rows of small family-owned retail shops that have become synonymous with New York's Chinatown, a crowd of Cornellians and friends gathered Jan. 22 for the 20th annual Cornell Asian Alumni Association's New Year's Banquet at the Grand Harmony Palace.

The annual event attracted more than 350 people, including many Cornell alumni living in the metropolitan area and a number of Cornell deans, vice presidents, trustees and directors; as well as State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher; Robert S. Harrison '76, CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative and chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees' Executive Committee; and trustee and Pulitzer Prize winner Sheryl WuDunn '81 (accompanied by her husband, Nicholas Kristof, senior writer and national correspondent for The New York Times).

Monica Gelinas '99, CAAA president.

Monica Gelinas '99, CAAA president. See larger image

This year's annual banquet honored Roderick Chu, MBA '71, vice chair of the Cornell University Council, and announced its 48th, 49th and 50th scholarships. The event also raised more than $60,000. Some of the funds will be used to develop a Pan-Asian garden at Cornell Plantations to be located adjacent to the Ten Eyck classroom in the recently completed Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center. The garden will include elements of the great landscape design traditions from China, Japan and Korea.

The Class of 1978 was the first Cornell class with more than 200 Asian students. This was "a tipping point," says Matthew Palumbo '83, who was marketing director for this year's CAAA banquet. Members of that graduating class were a large part of the driving force behind CAAA's founding in 1990 – the first Asian alumni group in the Ivy League.

Since then, the group's growth has mirrored the creation of Asian studies programs across the country, the rising number of Asian students on campus and the influence of Asians at Cornell and around the globe. An estimated 20 to 25 percent of the student body on the Ithaca campus is Asian-American or of Asian descent.

Traditional drummers

Traditional Asian entertainment at the banquet, which also featured a 10-course meal. See larger image

The banquet included a 10-course Chinese meal, a traditional Chinese face change dance and Korean Pungmul drumming by Shimtah, a Cornell student group.

In his acceptance talk, Chu talked about the importance of supporting education even in the worst of economic times and working hard to keep Americans competitive in a global market. Chu was New York's first Chinese-American commissioner of taxation and finance, a partner at Arthur Andersen and chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents.

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