From left, Neng Lee, Tom Black, Dr. Yang Dao, Scott Thompson, Dr. Ron Anderson, Jill Greenhalgh, Blong Yang. (Century College photo)
White Bear Lake, Minn. (March 6, 2013) — A new Century College scholarship established by philanthropist Scott Thompson in honor of Dr. Yang Dao is intended to promote leadership in students from diverse communities – particularly the Hmong community.
“We want to encourage the development of the next generation of leaders,” said Thompson, an investment advisor who is active in the Hmong community. He noted that Dr. Dao, the first Hmong to earn a PhD, is a great role model for aspiring student leaders.
Thompson said they chose Century for the scholarship because of the college’s long-established connection to the Hmong community. Century has more than 1,500 Asian students, who make up about 15 percent of the student body. Outside of the University of Minnesota, Century is the top choice for St. Paul area students of Asian descent who go on to college.
The first Scott Thompson/Dr. Yang Dao Scholarship will be presented at the Hmong New Year’s Celebration held annually at the Metrodome in December.
Now age 70, Dr. Yang Dao retired in 2009. He was born in Laos, and as a good student, was sent to study in Sorbonne, University of Paris, France, in 1972, where he would eventually receive a Ph.D. in social science – the first Hmong in the world to accomplish this at the time.
Dr. Yang Dao would go on to head the Human Resource Department of the Ministry of Planning in the Lao Royal Government until 1974, when he was appointed by H.M. King Sisavang Vatthana to the National Political Consultative Council (Laotian National Congress..
After the takeover of Laos by the communists in May 1975, Yang attempted to structure a coalition government. When that failed and the communists took over he fled to the refugee camps in Thailand, where he helped to facilitate the international refugee movement of Hmong to the United States, Australia, France and Canada.
Dr. Yang would go to France, where he worked in education and journalism. After meeting with University of Minnesota officials and visiting the Twin Cities on occasion, he would make it his home in 1983, and has since worked for University of Minnesota, Hamline and Metropolitan State University and the Board of Administration of Saint Paul Public Schools.
Dr. Yang speaks and writes fluently in Hmong, Lao, Vietnamese, French, and English. He also has a good command of the Thai language. He has authored and co-authored several books on the Hmong experience, language and culture.