November 15, 2012
Words from Dean Olian on the Passing of Wilbur K. Woo
Community leader and longtime friend of UCLA Anderson
To the UCLA Anderson community,
It is with much sadness that I inform you of the passing of Wilbur K. Woo (BS, 1942). A longtime friend of UCLA Anderson, Mr. Woo was vice chairman emeritus of Cathay Bank and Cathay Bancorp, and was known for his decades of leadership in Los Angeles' Chinese-American community.
Born in 1916, Mr. Woo immigrated to Los Angeles at age 5. He returned to China at age 12, then came back to Los Angeles in 1940 to complete his education at UCLA with a degree in business administration. He then went to work with his father managing Chungking Produce Company, a supplier of Chinese vegetables and other produce to restaurants and grocery stores.
In 1962, at a time when mainstream banks would not make loans to many ethnic Chinese, Mr. Woo joined Cathay Bank - the first Chinese-American-owned bank - as a vice president. He played a central role in the bank's growth over the next decades and rose to executive vice president.
In addition to his career in banking, Mr. Woo cultivated a variety of business, political, cultural and charitable interests. He served as chairman of the board of The Chinese Times, the oldest Chinese language newspaper in the U.S.; was charter chairman of the Asian American National Business Alliance; founded and served as chairman of the California-Taiwan Trade & Investment Council; was president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce; supported the Chinese Pavilion at the Huntington Museum; and was an organizer and secretary-general of the 8th World Chinese Traders Convention. One of his proudest accomplishments, as grand president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, was lobbying for the historic immigration reform bill of the mid-1960s that opened the doors to a new wave of immigrants from China and Taiwan.
In 1996, Mr. Woo became the first Asian American to be honored by UCLA with the Neil H. Jacoby Award. In 2001, Mr. Woo and his wife Beth endowed the annual Wilbur K. Woo Greater China Business Conference at UCLA Anderson, with a goal of promoting understanding of the economic ties between the Greater China region and the United States. Mr. Woo said that he established the conference to "show my gratitude for the training I received at my alma mater many years ago." The next Wilbur K. Woo Greater China Business Conference is scheduled for March 1, 2013.
He is survived by his wife of 74 years, five children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Please join me in sending our deepest condolences to Mr. Woo's wife, Beth and to his family upon their loss. He was a true gentleman and will be missed.
Dean & John E. Anderson Chair