After a year and a half packed with academic collaborations, research, performances, exhibits and other programs, William & Mary’s Asian Centennial commemoration will culminate with several special events later this month, including Asian Centennial Day on April 30.

The full day of programming includes a masquerade and gala at the Muscarelle Museum of Art, which will feature the unveiling of artwork commissioned for the centennial plus the announcement of the inaugural William & Mary Asian Centennial Awards.

“The Asian Centennial Committee founded the awards to recognize our alumni who have advocated for others especially those marginalized through their careers and their volunteer efforts,” said Francis Tanglao Aguas, professor of theatre and Asian & Pacific Islander American studies and co-chair of the Asian Centennial with Sociology Professor Deenesh Sohoni.

“The inaugural awardees of the Asian Centennial Awards are leaders and change-makers just like our earlier students of Asian descent such as Hatsuye Yamasaki ‘37 who despite being the lone woman of color on campus was the president of Brown Hall, W&M’s dormitory for women.”

Banners on light poles around campus recognize the centennial. (Photo by Danielle Desjardins)
Banners on light poles around campus recognize the centennial. (Photo by Danielle Desjardins)

William & Mary’s Asian Centennial celebrates the 100th anniversary of the admission of the university’s first student from Asia, Pu-Kao Chen (Class of 1923), as well as all students of Asian, Pacific Islander and Middle Eastern/Southwest Asian descent who followed. The commemoration began in fall 2021 and has presented myriad special events since. It also brought to campus three Asian Centennial Arts Fellows and launched the Asian Pacific Middle Eastern Research Project.

On April 20, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and scholar Viet Thanh Nguyen will be on campus to receive the 2022 Hatsuye Yamasaki ‘37 Prize for Visionary Leadership, which honors W&M’s first female student of Asian descent. Hosted by the Reves Center for International Studies, Nguyen will also deliver the 2022 McSwain-Walker Lecture at 5 p.m. on the same day at the Commonwealth Auditorium of the Sadler Center.

The culminating events later this month begin with the Asian Centennial Ball on April 22. Co-sponsored by the Student Assembly and W&M’s Asian student organizations, the event is meant to celebrate the Asian, Pacific Islander and Middle Eastern/Southwest Asian (APIM) community at the university and will include student performances, dancing and APIM cuisine. It will begin at 7 p.m. in the Sunken Garden. The event is only open to current students. While entry is free, reservations are required and may be made online.

Asian Centennial Day includes a number of events, all of which are open to the public. It begins at 11 a.m. in Zable Stadium with the dedication of the Arthur A. Matsu Arcade and unveiling of the historical marker honoring Matsu’s Legacy. Matsu was the university’s first known Asian American student. A talented member of the football team at the university, Matsu went on to become the first alumnus to play for the National Football League and one of the league’s first Asian Americans players. 

In April 2021, W&M’s Board of Visitors voted to name Zable Stadium’s northern colonnade in Matsu’s honor. In August that same year, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that an historical marker would also be created to honor Matsu.

The masquerade and gala fundraiser begins at 6 p.m. in W&M’s Muscarelle Museum of Art. It will also be livestreamed. Tickets are required for both. All proceeds benefit Asian Pacific Middle Eastern/Southwest Asian Project Fund.

The gala will feature the unveiling of artwork created for the centennial by Roberto Jamora, who was a centennial distinguished fine arts fellow in residence. It will also include musical and dance performances, the announcement of the awards and a private showing of the museum’s current exhibit featuring the work of Edgar Degas.

Another one of the Asian Centennial Arts Fellows, filmmaker Marissa Aroy, will be capturing footage of the special events to use in a documentary about the history and experiences of APIM people at the university. A trailer for the project is expected to be completed by Commencement weekend, May 20-22.

During that weekend, the university will host a special event for APIM graduates. Titled “Khatalampay,” the ceremony is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Sadler Center’s Chesapeake Rooms. 

The university also recently announced that W&M alumna and Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy ’00, the first Vietnamese American woman elected to the U.S. Congress, will receive an honorary degree from W&M during Commencement weekend.

While the centennial comes to a close this semester, the work it has begun will proceed as APIM history continues to be made at the university. Just last month, the university saw another historic moment when all of the people who were elected as class president plus the person who won the Student Assembly presidency were of Asian descent.

Registering for and attending events at William & Mary conveys a shared expectation of abiding by university policy, which is subject to change as conditions warrant. As of March 29, 2022, masking is optional both indoors and outdoors, with masking especially encouraged in large gatherings. Masks are required for students visiting the Student Health Center, for staff in the clinic, and for anyone using public transportationCOVID-19 vaccination and boosters are strongly encouraged for all William & Mary students, employees and external visitors, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. We create these shared expectations of event participants in keeping with William & Mary’s core values of Belonging within this community and Respect for one another as individuals, and in recognition of the risks inherent to gathering amid pandemic.

, Senior Associate Director of University News