“This is one of my special events,” said Trishana E. Bowden, president of the George Mason University Foundation and vice president for advancement and alumni relations, as she welcomed guests to Mason’s Scholarship Breakfast, “because it was 30-something years ago that I sat as a scholarship recipient at a luncheon.”
The breakfast, held in Mason’s Center for the Arts lobby, hosted donors and scholarship recipients together. “We provide private scholarships to more than 1,300 students and that donor support makes a difference every year,” Bowden said. “The donors are really investing in the future of Mason and our students.”
Betzy Balladares Oviedo, a junior at Mason and a social work major—and one of many students who have received support from a Kimmy Duong Foundation scholarship—said the scholarship had a tremendous impact on her. “I am beyond grateful,” Oviedo said, “not just for financial assistance, but for the inspiration for excellence, and [Duong’s] serving as a role model. I will do everything in my power to make it count.”
The event was also an opportunity to recognize donors Duong and Tamara Nall for their generosity and commitment to education.
George Mason University Foundation Board of Trustees member Tamara Nall is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of The Leading Niche, an award-winning and internationally recognized company that she leads with her husband, Clement Ezeanii. Nall and Ezeanii, whose gift to Mason established the Susanna Ezeanii and Mayfred Jolinda Nall Health Informatics Scholarship Endowment, said their mothers instilled in them the importance of education. This translated to their commitment to helping students reach their goals and dreams. “To whom much is given, much is required,” said Nall.
At the breakfast, Kimmy Duong shared her story of perseverance as well as philanthropy. After being forced to flee her country in 1975, she arrived in the United States with only two suitcases and $30. She created a new life for herself, working at IBM for 25 years.
Duong and her husband, Long Nguyen, have been longtime Mason supporters. The Long and Kimmy Nguyen Engineering Building, on Mason’s Fairfax Campus, is named in their honor. Duong will receive the Mason Medal, Mason’s highest honorary award, at Spring Commencement on May 18.
In 2015, Duong established the Kimmy Duong Foundation, focusing her philanthropy on education. The foundation has awarded scholarships to students at colleges and universities in the Washington, D.C., area and in Southern California. “Education is the cornerstone of life,” said Duong. She remembered many in her generation working multiple jobs to send their children to college.
“Now, we are giving back,” she said.