International art students at Queens College are one step closer to achieving their dreams with the help of Crystal Window & Door Systems.
Thomas Chen, founder and chairman of the company, and his family donated $1.1 million to the college’s new School of the Arts to support Asian contemporary art. A reception was held at Queens College last week to celebrate his generosity.
The endowment will fund three key initiatives: exhibitions of Asian art at museums and galleries located on campus, scholarships for students who are passionate about representing Asian contemporary art, and a visiting artist program so established artists can share their success with students and display their work.
“The Chen family has so graciously decided to give back to this community where they started on their path to such great success,” said college president Frank Wu. “It will benefit students here paying homage to the Chen family’s roots in Asia.”
Chen emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan in 1982 with little money and speaking no English. After much hard work and dedication, Chen founded Crystal Window & Door Systems, and received various awards and honors including Business Person of the Year by the Queens Chamber of Commerce and one of New York’s 100 Most Powerful Minority Business Leaders by Crain’s New York Business.
“The Chen family and Crystal Windows have done so much for our working families throughout the borough and the city,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “They have really provided and supported so many new resources, expanded existing opportunities and opened up windows of opportunities.”
A touching moment during the event was when Simmi So, a native of Hong Kong and a studio art and psychology double major at Queens College, spoke about being a beneficiary of the Chen family’s endowment.
So shared her personal hardships about being an international student, from worrying about her American peers not being able to understand her to her financial struggles amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for So, her art was the one outlet that made everything else make sense, where she was truly able to express herself.
“English is my second language, I always find it difficult to use English to express myself,” she said. “However, art helped me break out of my shell. Through art, I was able to communicate with my classmates and start making new friends. There is no language barrier in art, and I think that’s the beauty of it.”
Steve Chen, son of Thomas Chen and president of Crystal Window & Door Systems, thanked all the speakers for their acknowledgements and proclamations and gave the crowd some insight as to why the donation is important to him.
“When my family came to America, we came to Queens,” he said. “So it makes perfect sense to support an institution like Queens College that has proven over the years to be a valuable source of education for so many immigrants and first generation Americans.
“This is our biggest endowment and foundation to date,” the younger Chen added. “Appreciation of art transcends languages and borders that separate us. Therefore, it’s very special to us and our family to provide the first major gift toward establishing a new School of Arts benefiting future generations and their educational artistic endeavors.”