Chinese Remember Philanthropist Charles B. Wang

Charles B. Wang (far right) joined by Fred Teng and NYC Comptroller Harrison Goldin in 1988.

Chinese-American entrepreneur and philanthropist Charles B. Wang died on Oct. 21, at the age of 74. Renowned in mainstream society, the co-founder of Computer Associates who came to the U.S. from Shanghai when he was 8, might be an exemplar for assimilation. But to the Chinese, Wang proved that he had never forgotten his roots, going by his various philanthropic projects that continue to benefit the community.

Fred Teng, the president of the America China Public Affairs Institute, got to know Wang in 1986 when Teng, the president of the Asian Financial Society at the time, invited him to speak at the organization’s annual gala. Wang, who by then had made a name for himself with the rapid growth of Computer Associates, accepted the invitation without hesitation. When Teng later became the head of the Chinese-American Planning Council, Wang donated some computers to the organization, which serves low-income Chinese. “He did a lot of good deeds like this quietly as he didn’t seek the spotlight,” Teng said.

Lesser-known philanthropic activities like this and the more prominent initiatives such as the Smile Train, an organization that offers free corrective surgery to children with cleft lips and palates in developing countries, the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, a clinic that serves low-income Chinese, the Islanders Children’s Foundation, which provides funding to train children from poor families in China in ice hockey, and the Charles B. Wang Center at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, are only part of Wang’s legacy of generosity. At many events where well-off Chinese immigrants gathered, Wang tried to convince them to give back to the community. “He was a major force that had been propelling philanthropy in the Chinese community,” Teng said.

Tianbo Huang, who had worked at KyLin TV, a tech initiative Wang founded to bring TV programs from China to Chinese immigrants in the U.S., and helped Wang manage the New York Islanders, the hockey team he once owned, remembers Wang as an entrepreneur who was both down to earth and a visionary. “In the office building of KyLin, when he saw that the bottle on the water dispenser was empty, he’d load it himself,” said Huang, who added that Wang was also kind to employees. “In bad weather, he’d always order delivered lunch for employees, and if someone couldn’t find a baby sitter for their kids, he’d encourage them to bring the kids to the office,” said Huang.

But what impressed Huang the most was the significant role Wang played in bringing ice hockey to China. Huang once went to Ottawa with Wang for the NHL Draft. Among all the owners of major teams in North America, Wang was the only Chinese. In 2015, after Huang left KyLin, he and Wang met again at a ceremony in Harbin, China, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of China’s “Ice Hockey Hope Project,” which was built through Wang’s donations to train young Chinese in ice hockey. “Chinese had little representation in ice hockey. It was he who brought Chinese into the sport,” Huang said.

Wang’s donation also made the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center able to provide health care to low-income patients. “He gave the Health Center a gift to develop the 268 Canal St. site in 1999, and supported the development of our electronic medical records system. Recently, he pledged a gift of $2.5 million toward the development of Healthview, which will be the Health Center’s third site in Flushing,” said Jane Eng, president and CEO of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. “The Health Center’s growth and expansion over the past two decades would not have been possible without Mr. Wang’s support and encouragement.”

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