Tenth Annual Asian Heritage Awards
Dr. Pradeep Khosla
UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla will be honored as this year’s Special Recognition recipient during the tenth anniversary celebration of the Asian Heritage Awards on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the San Diego Marquis and Marina on Harbor Drive in San Diego. Gala Co-chairs for the evening are UCSD’s Dr. Shu Chien, 2011 National Medal of Science winner; and SDSU’s Dr. Lilly Cheng, director of the Confucius Institute at the university.
In addition, the Asian Heritage Awards will recognize achievers in nine categories.
Dr. Khosla’s selection as this year’s special honoree, according to Rosalynn Carmen, president of the Asian Heritage Society, is based on a “distinguished academic career, strong dynamic leadership and pioneer efforts to insure diversity, reform curriculum and promote multidisciplinary research and global outreach.” Dr. Khosla’s selection, she said, also complements the Society’s BOOST-STEM program, held in collaboration with Alliant International University, which inspires middle school students to combine the entrepreneurial skills of business with careers in science and research. The program is partially supported by proceeds from the gala.
Dr. Khosla began his tenure at UCSD last August after serving as dean of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, where he organized and set direction for the school’s undergraduate and graduate research programs. While there, he was also elected University Professor, the highest distinction for a faculty member.
Dr. Khosla is also credited with starting several programs which led to successful diversity efforts and a multidisciplinary approach to research, graduate and international programs. Remarking about this achievement, he has said, “Our vision of the future, when it comes to education, is for students to enable, manage and deploy innovation in multilingual, multicultural, multinational distributed environments.”
An elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and fellow of the Indian Academy of Engineering, Dr. Khosla is a fellow of the American Association of Artificial Intelligence and recipient of numerous awards for leadership, teaching and research. He is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, where he received a degree in electrical engineering, and received his master’s degree and doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon.
Dr. Khosla took the reins of UCSD at a time when the state’s prized UC system was beset by strong financial cutbacks caused by a deep budgetary crisis. In assuming his post last year, he said his immediate priority was to find ways to raise money, including increasing the university’s endowment fund. “I am not saying we should become totally independent of state resources,” he said at the time. “But we cannot let the vagaries of the Legislature decide how we are going to educate and live on a daily basis.”
Dr. Khosla joins a distinguished list of Special Recognition honorees, including California Controller John Chiang, APAPA founder and McDonald’s scion C.C. Yin, San Diego’s first elected official Tom Hom, California Senator Leland Yee and Major General Antonio Taguba.
In the last ten years, the Asian Heritage Society’s Asian Heritage Awards has become the premiere event of its kind for Southern California’s Asian and Pacific Islander community and been recognized by the U.S. Congress, the City and County of San Diego and twice cited for its public service by the San Diego Press Club, one of the largest organizations of its kind in the country.
This year’s planning is under the direction of Julio DeGuzman. Planning Committee members include Sarina Dahlan-Dann, Julia Cheng, De Le, Stephanie Chang, Carole Caparros, Rosanna Harrison, Dr. Estela Matriano, Dr. Binh Tran, Amy Hsiao, Montana Quebedeaux and Tanya Pham.
Principal sponsors include SDG&E, the U.S. Navy, the Avery-Tsui Foundation, Phamatech, Barona Resort and Casino, UPS, the County of San Diego and Julia Cheng Wealth Management.
Dennis Avery, who funded a variety of endeavors, from prehistoric statues to Stephen Hawking’s cosmology center, was most at home in the Chinese community of San Diego, touching thousands of lives through his philanthropic efforts.
Acknowledging his contributions to the Chinese and other Asian communities in San Diego, the Asian Heritage Society will bestow the Diversity Pioneer Award posthumously to Avery during the Tenth Annual Asian Heritage Awards Gala Sept. 14.
“Many people, organizations and communities would agree that Dennis Avery touched our lives in many forms while he lived -- as role model, coach, mentor and supporter. Many times we fail to appreciate individuals such as Dennis while they are alive because we think they will be with us forever. While Dennis has passed on, this award is our way of keeping his legacy alive,” said Rosalynn Carmen, president of the Asian Heritage Society.
Avery’s father, R. Stanton Avery, founded the family label-making business in 1935. By the turn of the century, the business had 16,000 employees and $3.2 billion in sales. Dennis, however, took another turn. He earned his master’s in law from England’s Cambridge University and worked in the San Diego City Attorney’s office as a consumer fraud attorney in the 1980s. Later, as dean of California Western School of Law, Avery met a law student who was to become his wife and partner in a wide variety of community work for the rest of his life. Together, Dennis and Sally Wong-Avery served in the board of a select number of individuals to travel to China in the early 1980s as part of a first if its kind program called “China Adventure.” Together, they also established the first fully licensed bilingual preschool in San Diego.
“It was a long time dream” of her mother, said Natasha Wong. “Dennis loved children and believed in her dream to educate and teach Chinese language and culture,” she added. “He did whatever he could to help us make one community out of several. He would do anything you wanted,” said Jack Fu, a commissioner representing the Taiwanese government in San Diego. “People from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan – they don’t have any differences when they are with him.”
Avery also belonged to the Chinese Community Church in Tierrasanta, where, in 2006, he led the fundraising effort to move the church from East San Diego. And when the church needed a new piano, he paid for it out of his own pocket. “He never asked anything in return,” said Tom Hom. “He was just a wonderful supporter. He always gave.”
One of his most precious gifts to the community, which he loved talking about, was the 10,400-square-foot Chinese Bilingual Preschool in Kearny Mesa, which opened in March of 2011 with playground, day care and eight classrooms, to match the growing interest in Mandarin and Chinese culture. His wife Sally remains the principal. At the time, after investing $6 million in the school, he said, “We’ll never get it back. It’s not intended to make us rich. It just seems like a really good thing to do.”
Avery was known to fund ideas, grandiose and small. Years ago, when property there was literally dirt cheap, he bought some 3,000 acres of undeveloped land in Borrego Springs to keep it from being developed and called it Galleta Meadows, which later became the site of dozens of giant sculptures of the prehistoric animals that once roamed the area. The site has since become a renowned tourist attraction.
In 1999, while visiting Stephen Hawking at the University of Cambridge in England, he listened as the world-renowned astronomer shared his concept of a “Newton’s Nest,” where the next Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein might emerge. He liked the idea so much that he and wife Sally wife put up the initial funding for the project. The Centre for Theoretical Cosmology is now a permanent part of Cambridge.
Dennis Avery loved telling the story of a young girl, who walking along the beach after a violent storm, came across thousands of starfish. As she came to each one, she picked it up and tossed it back in the ocean. An old man approached to ask her why she was doing that. “You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference,” he told her. The girl stopped for a few moments, thought, then bent down and continued what she was doing. As she picked up another starfish, she turned to the man and said, “Well, I made a difference to that one.”
Unlike that young girl, however, Avery made a difference in much more than one life. His life touched thousands.
Asian Heritage Awards 2013 Honorees