Nov. 11, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
Queens College in Flushing has received a financial endowment of more than $1.1 million to be used to support contemporary Asian art at the institution.
The funds, which were awarded at a reception at the college Wednesday, were donated by Thomas Chen, who founded Crystal Window and Door Systems—a New York company that manufactures windows and doors.
A number of elected officials attended the event, including Congressmember Grace Meng as well as State Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and John Liu.
The money will help kick start the institution’s new School of the Arts program, which was launched in September, according to Frank Wu, president of Queens College.
The program offers a range of degrees to students in studio art, art history, design, photography and other art subjects. The college is part of the City University of New York system
Wu said the donation will fund exhibitions at the college as well as student scholarships and a visiting artist program. He said the college was profoundly grateful for Chen’s generous support.
“At the same time, Chen’s remarkable life and outstanding career will inspire our students, showing them that with vision and hard work, the American dream is attainable,” Wu said.
Chen immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1982 with little money and no command of English before he established Crystal Window and Door Systems eight years later, Wu said.
The business has grown into one of the leading window and door manufacturers in the city. Chen is also known for his philanthropic support of Asian culture and art as well as educational initiatives for immigrants.
Chen, and members of his family, presented Queens College representatives with a $1.105 million check at yesterday’s reception. He said he was proud to make the contribution.
“As someone who never had the opportunity to attend college, I believe supporting a prestigious local institution like Queens College with its long history of benefitting immigrants and first-generation Americans makes perfect sense,” Chen said.
“This is the first major gift to help establish the new School of the Arts, a subject near and dear to my heart. This makes the endowment all the more special to me and a wonderful legacy for my family.”
Queens Borough president Donovan Richards issued a proclamation in honor of the Chen family and Crystal Window and Door Systems for the donation.
“With this generous gift, Queens College will remain one of the most affordable public colleges in the country and will be better able to offer a first-rate education to talented people of all backgrounds and financial means,” Richards said in statement.
Meanwhile, Liu said that Chen slept on his family’s living room floor for a week before securing his first job in America.
“With all his success over four decades, he never once forgot to give back and provide others with opportunity,” Liu said. “We owe Thomas and the Chen family a debt of gratitude.”
Chen is a founding member of the Taiwanese American Arts Council, which collaborates with the Queens Museum to support Asian artists throughout the city.
The Chen family also provides support to Queensborough Community College, Queens Theatre in the Park, the NYC Winter Lantern Festival, Flushing Town Hall and the Flushing Taiwan Center.
Chen is also the founder of Crystal Park, a private 200-acre sculpture park and nature preserve located in Dutchess County. The work of international contemporary artists is displayed along the wooded trails at the park.