NAAAP Boston – The Early Years from 1986
Information about how NAAAP Boston came about from some of the founders and presidents. The first six presidents were: Richard Ning, Doris Lee, Bob Yee, James Yung, Steve Ng and Barry Wu.
When did NAAAP Boston get started?
The National Association of Young Asian Professionals (NAYAP) was started in New York City. The New England chapter was launched in 1986 at the China Trade Center building, corner of Boylston and Washington St. Local leaders from community organizations were amongst the 200 people that attended the inaugural announcement of NAYAP New England. Over 100 new members signed up during the festivities.
Why the change from NAYAP to NAAAP?
As NAYAP begun to evolve nationally the name was changed to National Association of Asian American Professionals “NAAAP,” creating NAAAP NY, Boston (instead of New England), and Chicago. A member of the Boston chapter who was a registered professional architect had presented to the NAYAP leadership with a very well thought out and professionally published treatise/proposal to change the name of the organization and its logo. The words “Young Asian” was too restrictive and went counter to the basic tenets of the organization and to whom it is serving. His alternative proposal was Asian American. The original symbol for NAYAP was the Chinese Kanji for Man ( ). The new symbol was to retain the left brush stroke but replace the other brush stroke with a straight up-and-down western type symbolizing East meets West. The proposal was adopted by all the existing chapters. In 1992 NAAAP Boston was officially chartered in Massachusetts as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Who were some of the people involved in the start up?
Richard Ning was the prime inspiration in the earliest days. Richard was a friend of George Chin, one of the founders of the New York NAYAP. Richard and George were very good friends at Harvard, and both were very active in the Chinese student associations in the Boston area. They became convinced a NAYAP New England chapter would benefit the Boston community. The original founding members of NAYAP New England were: Richard Ning, Doris Ho (now Doris Lee), Pung Ho, Cynthia Sung, Brenda Lee-Kang (formerly Lee), Angela Oey (formerly Hee), and Swan Oey.
What motivated the early leaders to start the group?
We saw a huge need for Chinese-Americans (later expanded to all Asian-Americans) to learn how to succeed and get ahead in their jobs and professions. There were – and still are -stereotypes of Asian behaviors that we wanted to expose and overcome. We wanted to create a place for Asian professionals to meet one another and network. We encouraged community service, such as supporting the local Chinese social/immigrant service groups. We fostered professional development skills and behaviors needed for career advancement. We also wanted the membership to get together, share their experiences, network, create personal as well as professional relationships and otherwise…just have fun. When you put good people together in a nurturing, open environment with a shared purpose and goal, good things just happen.
What was the membership like?
Our outreach was only word-of-mouth, but it proved to be very effective. We asked people to join and pay a modest membership fee. In the early years we had 100 – 150 members, in a wide variety of professions. We attracted Asian-Americans from the city and the suburbs. Most were first or second generation, Chinese professionals.
What kinds of events did the Chapter offer?
We supported community service agencies such as the local Chinese nursing home, the August Moon Festival, and the Chinese-American Civic Association’s social service activities and Big Sisters of Greater Boston. We did summer family picnics at Hopkinton State Park and held annual Gala events in Boston to celebrate NAAAP accomplishments and recognize our volunteers. We organized professional development workshops and speaker panels. We urged membership to take a primary or secondary stewardship for a particular function, project or development area that they might be interested in. They could take on as much responsibility as they felt comfortable with the full knowledge that the rest of the organization was there for support should it be needed or requested.
What was the organization’s culture like?
It was vibrant and unique. There was nothing else like NAAAP at the time. It was exciting to meet and do things with other Asian-Americans, men and women, from a variety of professions, such as medicine, engineering, education, law, and business. People enjoyed being together, and social interactions happened easily. We had little funding other than membership collections and proceeds from events, so it was essential for us to be resourceful. We held meetings in leaders’ homes, or at restaurants or corporate spaces. Prime Computer provided the first corporate support for the organization. We adopted some structure and operating practices so that we were not always reinventing the wheel. We always sought multiple volunteers to run a given event to set up training for next time. Members were encouraged to attend our monthly planning meetings. It provided an opportunity for them to develop skills outside of their work environment through volunteerism and organizing events. For NAAAP it was a way to bring in fresh ideas and to develop future leaders. We were able to balance the serious work of organizing events and getting tasks done while having fun. NAAAP members were committed to giving back to the communities, highlighting Asian American Professionals in the workplace and creating a national Asian-American professionals’ organization.
Any favorite memories or anecdotes from those early days?
- Proud of – Established a scholarship “Significant Achievement and Future Leadership Award.” With the help of MetLife, who provided funding, we were able to set up an annual award competition to recognize Asian American high school seniors in the greater Boston area who demonstrated both academic and leadership potential. What was important about this program was that in addition to the awards themselves, it helped portray NAAAP as an organization of professionals to the greater Asian American community, as the awards were annually presented at the Asian American Unity Dinner, a “who’s who” gathering of Greater Boston’s Asian organizations.
- Activism/Advocacy – In 1990, NAAAP’s “voice” squashed a $10 million dollar national campaign ad by Smart Food, owned by the parent company Frito-Lay Corp. The Smart Food radio advertisement was offensive in nature towards Japanese Americans. NAAAP made targeted calls to the radio station, advertising agency, and Smart Food to stop the ad campaign. To Frito-Lay’s credit, the ad campaign was pulled after a call was made to the EEO/AA department within Human Resources expressing NAAAP’s concerns and its impact on the Asian community.
- Achievements – Furthering the NAAAP brand locally and nationally with the establishment of first the Boston and then Chicago chapters.
- Challenges overcome – Creating a NAAAP identity that was distinct from other locally established Asian groups and organizations. Increasing membership enrollment and providing member services to attract and retain members. Seeking out sustainable funding sources. In the beginning, we did our due diligence in both organizations in trying to ascertain what this New York entity was all about. What were their true intentions and goals? There will always be a lingering apprehension when embarking on a new venture. Chicago felt the same way when it became their turn to sign on or not. There was much discussion, but we made it through. Richard and Bob had longtime friendships with leadership in both organizations. There was a bond of trust that got us inside to meet the leadership of both New York and Chicago…and the rest is history.
- Memorable Moments – The friendly rivalry between NAAAP New York and NAAAP Boston at the annual retreats.
- Funniest incident – Imagine a group of inexperienced Asian rowers trying to navigate a dragon boat in a busy inner Boston Harbor.
The internet was a baby when NAAAP began. We did not have Facebook, Linked-in or any social networking tools. Our monthly newsletters and events flyers went out by Snail Mail – print, fold, stuff, label, stamp, and mail. There were times when family members young and old were enlisted to help.
We did not have Webex or conferencing services to facilitate monthly National Committee meetings. We had to rely on a daisy chain of work phones capable of connecting a few members at a time.
Richard Ning was born and raised in Cambridge, MA. He graduated from Harvard University with a BA in 1978 and later obtained a Certificate of Special Studies in Management and Administration from the Harvard Extension School. He recently retired after a 37-year career with the US Census Bureau. During most of those years, Richard managed nationwide field operations for large demographic surveys, such as the Current Population Survey and the National Crime Victimization Survey. He returned to the Boston area this year, where he actively serves as Chief Grandpa to his 9-year old granddaughter.
Doris Lee, originally from NY, graduated from Tufts University with a BA degree in Sociology. Upon graduation, Doris remained in the Boston area for 30 years. Her career has been spent in a variety of positions within the Human Resources arena. Her industry of concentration has been in high tech companies. It was Doris who got NAYAP in-kind services from our first corporate sponsor, Prime Computer. In 2006, Doris and her three children moved to Las Vegas NV.
Bob Yee was born, raised and educated in Boston. He has a BSEE in Power Systems from Northeastern University and an MBA from Babson College. He spent his entire career in the Nuclear Power industry. He met his wife through NAAAP, and they married and raised two boys. They currently live in Boston’s Western suburbs.
James Yung was born in Hong Kong, graduated from Bentley University with degrees in Management and Computer Information Systems and a MS in Innovation and Technology from Boston University. James is a Certified Information Systems Auditor. In his current position, Associate Director of IS Auditing at Harvard University Risk Management and Audit Services, he leads The Information Systems Audit Group in assessing Harvard’s IT organizations and Information Technology. Before Harvard, James held IT and consultant positions leading IT planning, technology assessment, solution design, and ERP implementations. James and his wife Diane and two daughters reside in Boston’s Western suburbs.
Steve Ng was born and raised in Cambridge, MA. He graduated from Tufts University with an engineering degree and later received an MBA from Dartmouth College. When he was involved with NAAAP he worked at New England Telephone. Following a career which includes stints at United Airlines and JPMorgan Chase, Steve is now an independent executive and business coach and teaches at the University of Delaware College of Business. Steve lives with his wife and two daughters in Delaware.
Barry Wu is originally from Western Massachusetts, graduated with BS and MS degrees in Computer Engineering from Boston University and early on had decided that Boston was the place to be. He began his professional career in software engineering, developing expertise in internet security, including co-authorship of a patent in the field of digital certificates. As a grown up, Barry is in technical product management at Monster Worldwide and resides in the greater Boston area with his wife Judy and their daughter.