Washington, D.C. – The Organization of Chinese Americans, a national Asian Pacific American social justice organization with over 80 chapters and affiliates, announces honorees for the 2010 OCA Outstanding Citizen Achievement and Pioneer Awards, to be presented at the OCA National Convention in Houston from June 17-20, 2010.
This year’s Pioneer Award honorees are astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, Dr. Leroy Chiao and professional basketball trailblazer, Wat Misaka. Executive Director of BPSOS and Community leader, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, will be receiving OCA’s highest honor, the OCA Outstanding Citizen Achievement Award.
The 2010 OCA National Convention, Diverse Communities – United Commitment, will take place at the Westin Galleria Houston from June 17 to 20. The Pioneer and Outstanding Citizen Achievement Awards will be presented during the Gala Award Dinner on Saturday, June 19. OCA will also recognize the achievements of its own members with the Chapter of the Year Award and the Unsung Heroes Awards.
“We are proud to honor a diverse and talented group of Asian Pacific Americans who have made inspiring contributions to society,” said Ken Lee, OCA National President. “It is exciting to be able to bring Dr. Thang, Dr. Chiao and Wat Misaka together at this OCA event to celebrate our community’s achievements.”
Dr. Leroy Chiao (Pioneer Award Honoree) was raised in Danville, California and attended UC Berkeley where he obtained a degree in Chemical Engineering. He continued study at UC Santa Barbara, earning an M.S. and a PhD. He was selected by NASA to become an astronaut in 1990.
In 2004, Dr. Chiao became the first Asian Pacific American commander of the International Space Station. Since then, Dr. Chiao has been involved in four space flights and has logged 229 days, 7 hours, 38 minutes and 5 seconds in space. In December of 2005, Dr. Chiao retired from NASA following a 15 year career with the agency.
Chiao is currently the Chairman of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute User Panel and the Executive VP and Director of Excalibur Almaz, a private manned spaceflight company.
Wat Misaka (Pioneer Award Honoree) was raised in Ogden, Utah and played basketball for the University of Utah team – helping the team earn spots in the National Invitational Tournament and NCAA Tournament.
Misaka made history by becoming the first Asian Pacific American to play professional basketball when he was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1947. He became the first player in the Basketball Association of America, the precursor to the National Basketball Association (NBA). After leaving the New York Knicks, Wataru served in the United States military during World War II and returned to playing basketball with the University of Utah.
Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang (Outstanding Citizen Achievement Award Honoree) arrived in the United States in 1979 from Vietnam. He obtained an M.S. in electrical engineering from John Hopkins University and a Doctorate of Science in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech.
Dr. Thang established Legal Assistance for Vietnamese Asylum Seekers (LAVAS), which set up legal aid offices in the Philippines and Hong Kong to defend the refugee rights of the Vietnamese boat people. He is currently the Executive Director of BPSOS, a national community-based organization dedicated to empowering, organizing, and equipping Southeast Asian American refugees.
In response to the mid-90s immigration and welfare reforms, Dr. Thang greatly expanded the BPSOS program nationwide to assist the Vietnamese American community adversely affected by the new policies. He also served tirelessly during the aftermath of Katrina to mobilize resources in the Gulf Coast region. Dr. Thang continues to coordinate changes in policy and through local grassroots organizing.
The annual OCA National Convention draws hundreds of APAs from around the country and features three days of workshops, exhibits, youth and college programs, film screenings and notable speakers. For more information, please visit our website at www.ocanational.org.