Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

4-13-09

Contacts:

Vijay Kanagala, Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition, (515) 451-6265, vijay@iastate.edu

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778, tbarron@iastate.edu

Iowa State's Asian American students will honor former Gov. Robert Ray on April 23

AMES, Iowa -- Former Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray, who opened Iowa's doors to thousands of Southeast Asian refugees after the fall of Saigon, will be the first inductee in the ISU Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Hall of Fame.

The ceremony will be during Asian Cultural Night, 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 23, in the Memorial Union Great Hall. The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of Iowa State's Asian American Heritage Week celebration, "Different Faces, Different Journeys: One Vision," April 20-24.

"The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to identify and recognize Iowans who advocate for and empower Iowa Asian American communities," said Vijay Kanagala, co-advisor to ISU Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition and a member of the Asian American Heritage Week Committee.

Ray, who was governor from 1969 to 1983, led a 1975 initiative to resettle 13,000 southeast Asians in Iowa. The first to arrive were the Tai Dam, a distinct ethnic group that had been forced out of their Vietnam homelands to live in refugee camps in Laos and Thailand. Known as "the people without a country," the Tai Dam vowed to stay together as a group after years of political oppression. Nearly 90 percent of the Tai Dam immigrated to Iowa.

"By doing the right thing, Gov. Ray was a role model to our nation and the world," Kanagala said. "Several of the children and grandchildren of these refugee families are now students at Iowa State. They thought honoring him in this way was a great way of saying thank you."

The Asian Cultural Night will also feature Asian student group performances, and a keynote address by Mira Yusef, executive director of Monsoon: United Asian Women of Iowa. Monsoon provides violence prevention and intervention services.

Other Asian American Heritage Week events, which are free and open to the public, include:

  • Opening ceremonies -- noon to 1 p.m. Monday, April 20, Parks Library, south side. Featuring the Malaysian Lion Dance, and dancing to Bollywood music tunes.
  • "Asian Americans: Coming Out, Hitting the Road, Running for Office" panel -- 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, Memorial Union Multicultural Center.
  • "First Person Plural," movie screening and discussion -- 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, room 1210 Le Baron Hall. Poignant journey of a Korean girl who was adopted by an American family.
  • Asian Fine Arts Night -- 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 24, Memorial Union Gallery Room. Try origami, calligraphy and henna hand painting.

A 1978 congressional resolution established Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week to coincide with two important anniversaries: The arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843), and the completion of the transcontinental railroad (May 10, 1869), mostly by Chinese immigrants.

Iowa State's Asian American Heritage Week is organized by the Asian American Graduate Students Association and the Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition.

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Robert Ray

Robert D. Ray

Quick look

Former Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray, who opened Iowa's doors to thousands of Southeast Asian refugees after the fall of Saigon, will be the first inductee in the ISU Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Hall of Fame. He will attend the ceremony during Asian Cultural Night, 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 23, in the Memorial Union Great Hall.

Quote

"By doing the right thing, Gov. Ray was a role model to our nation and the world. Several of the children and grandchildren of these refugee families are now students at Iowa State. They thought honoring him in this way was a great way of saying thank you."

Vijay Kanagala,
Asian American Heritage Week Committee