Thursday, October 8, 2015

Luu: Yale "Organizer and Connector"

"She loves to have everyone in her life connected and excited about things," a friend from Yale said about My Luu '96
My Luu '96, most of her friends and Yale classmates would agree, seized the day, grabbed opportunity and maximized the moment.  All the time.

She excelled everywhere--in corporate circles, in personal athletic pursuit, and in service to her community and heritage.

From the days of her childhood when she escaped at 6 with her family from a war-ravaged Vietnam and found a home in the U.S., life occasionally presented hurdles and challenges. She embraced them, tackled them and obliterated obstacles in her way.

After her arrival in this country, she immersed herself in an American life growing up in Texas, learned not just English but eventually several languages (including Spanish and Russian), was valedictorian of her high school in Houston and earned admission to Yale. She racked up accomplishments and made an impact with a sense of urgency, as if time would run out. She wouldn't waste a moment of it.

After Yale, she spent time as a junior diplomat in Uzbekistan, worked at Motorola, earned a Cornell MBA, worked on policy issues regarding refugees, and spent the past 16 years at IBM (in the Yorktown office) pushing the corporate giant into programs to make computing accessible to the most deprived, disabled, or disadvantaged among us.  One of her favorite goals was to run a marathon in all corners of the globe.  (She completed seven.)

On top of all her activities, she returned favors to Yale, the institution that opened its arms to her talents just a few years after she risked her life on a boat fleeing her home country. She became a consummate leader of alumni, eager to try something new to engage all, taking initiative to re-engineer alumni activity and do it differently.

Luu was instrumental in helping to found the current national organization for Asian alumni (Association of Asian American Alumni) and was the current president of the Yale Alumni Association of New York, which captures over 17,000 New York City alums of arguably the broadest stripes, temperaments, and interests.

At YAANY, she and her team launched programs that "went outside the box," reached out aggressively to younger classes, and, along with AYA, helped redefine what alumni engagement should be about.  YAANY boasts a calendar of several dozen alumni events a year, a way to get Upper East Side Old Blues involved as much as Park Slope twenty-somethings. Prospect Park cleaning, student networking, and "Foodtober" are examples of events.  Foodtober is a month-long celebration of eating, cuisine and food sources in the New York area.

Time ran out abruptly for Luu Sept. 25.  She died of a rare blood disease a few weeks after getting married to Dave Ventresca and having all her favorite friends and family around her at a New Jersey wedding Aug. 7. A Briarcliff Manor resident, she was just 41 and had survived previous bouts of cancer.

A Yale friend told the New York Times this summer, "She was an organizer and a connector.  She loves to have everyone in her life connected and excited about things."

Another Yale friend said, "She makes us all have fun, and then she stays friends with everyone."

"Her transformative experiences at Yale after years of deprivation, escape, life at sea, and refugee camp could strike awe in the soul," wrote Merrell Clark '57 '70 MAR, who supported efforts to award her a Yale Outstanding Service Award.

Luu capitalized on the privilege of being able to attend Yale, never forgot Yale's impact on her, and expended boundless energy giving back.

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