$1.1M gift kicks off QC’s school of arts 1

Queens College President Frank Wu, left, accepts a donation from Thomas Chen, center, and his family Nov. 9 to help establish a new School of the Arts.

A generous donation from Thomas Chen, the founder of Crystal Window and Door Systems, is the first major gift that will help establish an entire new school at Queens College.

The $1,105,000 Thomas Chen Family/Crystal Windows Endowment will be put toward the creation of a new School of the Arts. The specific donation from Chen will support Asian contemporary art at the college through exhibitions, student scholarships and a visiting artist program.

“I am proud to make this contribution on behalf of the Chen Family and Crystal Windows to Queens College,” Chen said a Nov. 10 statement. “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. 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.”

Chen emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan in 1982 without much money or understanding of English, but built his booming business within eight years. In the decades since, Chen has used his success to support countless individuals and institutions throughout the borough. Recently, Chen unveiled a bronze statue to honor the memory of late Borough President Claire Shulman, and in 2020 donated the resources to replace the visitor walkway that surrounds the Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum.

“Queens College is profoundly grateful for the generous support of Thomas Chen, whose endowment will enable the college to offer exciting new programs and scholarships,” said Queens College President Frank Wu. “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.”

The hefty donation was celebrated by the Queens College community Nov. 10, when Chen was issued a proclamation in his and his family’s honor by Borough President Donovan Richards.

The proclamation acknowledged their “deep and ongoing commitment to the borough,” recognizing that “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.”

Queens College announced its School of the Arts as part of its 2021-26 Strategic Plan. It will offer undergraduate degrees in studio art, art history, design, photography and imaging, and graduate degrees in studio art, art history and social practice.

Chen, an art appreciator and collector, was happy to help usher in the new school. He is a founder of the Taiwanese American Arts Council, which frequently collaborates with the Queens Museum to support Asian artists throughout the city. He also supports Queens Theatre in the Park, the NYC Winter Lantern Festival, Flushing Town Hall and the Flushing Taiwan Center.

Chen even has his own 200-acre private sculpture park and nature preserve in Duchess County, called Crystal Park, where the statue of Shulman was recently moved.

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