-- Gift Will Fund Exhibitions at the College, Student Scholarships,
and a Visiting Artist Program --
Flushing, New York, November 10, 2021—Queens College President Frank H. Wu announced the Thomas Chen Family/Crystal Windows Endowment of $1,105,000 to support Asian contemporary art at the college through exhibitions, student scholarships, and a visiting artist program at a reception held today in the school’s music building. The endowment is the first major gift to help establish the college’s new School of the Arts, introduced as part of the 2021–2026 Strategic Plan. The college offers undergraduate degrees in studio art, art history, design, photography, and imaging and graduate degrees in studio art, art history, and social practice.
Speakers at today’s event, which was hosted by Wu, included Thomas Chen, founder and chairman, Crystal Window and Door Systems; Steve Chen, president, Crystal Window and Door Systems; Lee Fensterstock, president, Queens College Foundation; Grace Meng, U.S. Congresswoman; Toby Ann Stavisky, New York State Senator, Senate Higher Education Committee chair, and alumna; John Liu, New York State Senator; Tiffany Eason, representing Donovan Richards Jr., president, Borough of Queens; and Simmi So, a student majoring in studio art and psychology at Queens College.
Richards issued a proclamation in honor of the Chen family and Crystal Window and Door Systems that 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 is profoundly grateful for the generous support of Thomas Chen, whose endowment will enable the college to offer exciting new programs and scholarships,” said 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.”
Chen, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, personifies that dream. He emigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1982 with little money and no command of English; eight years later, he founded Crystal Window and Door Systems in Queens, New York. Today he is a major supporter of Asian culture and art, and educational initiatives for immigrants.
Chen serves as Crystal Window’s chairman, with his son, Steve, serving as president in charge of daily operations. The recipient of numerous honors, Chen has been named one of New York’s 100 Most Powerful Minority Business Leaders by Crain’s New York Business, Entrepreneur of the Year - New York City Region by Ernst & Young, Business Person of the Year by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and he received the Minority Business Leadership Award from the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC).
“I am proud to make this contribution on behalf of the Chen Family and Crystal Windows to Queens College,” said Chen. “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 is a founding member of the Taiwanese American Arts Council, which collaborates with the Queens Museum to support Asian artists throughout the city. Together with his family, he provides support to Queensborough Community College, Queens Theatre in the Park, the NYC Winter Lantern Festival, Flushing Town Hall, and the Flushing Taiwan Center. Chen is also the founder of Crystal Park, a private 200-acre sculpture park and nature preserve in Dutchess County, New York. As a sponsor for local and international contemporary artists, Chen exhibits their work along the wooded trails of Crystal Park for the enjoyment of guests and local residents. The park’s most recent installation is a life-sized bronze statue of the late Claire Shulman, a four-term Queens borough president, a long-time mentor and friend of the Chen family, and a supporter of its business endeavors.
“Queens College has always been known for its excellent programs in the arts,” said Fensterstock. “Mr. Chen’s gift will take our programming in the arts to a new level. We are so grateful for this incredible gift and the direct benefit it brings to our students.”
“Queens College is a beacon of higher education and I commend the Chen family-Crystal Windows for this generous support that will help the college do an even better job in serving students, and preparing them for their careers and futures,” said Meng. “I thank them for contributing to the growth of this exceptional institution. It is important to ensure that the college remains a critical asset to our borough and the rest of New York City.”
“Thomas Chen is extraordinarily generous in his support of many different outstanding organizations in Queens,” said Richards. “Thanks to his latest gift, Queens College will be in an even better position to offer a first-rate education to talented people of all backgrounds and financial means. The people of Queens warmly thank Thomas Chen for his generous donation to Queens College and salute the Chen family and Crystal Window and Door Systems for its deep and ongoing commitment to our borough.”
“The new School of the Arts represents an exciting new chapter for Queens College,” said Stavisky. “This endowment and the culturally enlightening opportunities it will provide will serve as a critical foundation for the school to build upon. Thank you to Thomas Chen and his family for their generosity. I know this support will not only enrich the student experience but will enable Queens College to continue to be a beacon of light for the arts.”
"Upon arriving in Queens from Taiwan, Thomas Chen slept on my family’s living room floor for a week before securing his first job and, with wit and grit, he pursued and achieved the American Dream,” said Liu. “With all his success over four decades, he never once forgot to give back and provide others with opportunity, and with this endowment continues his life’s commitment first as entrepreneur and in more recent years as philanthropist. We owe Thomas and the Chen family a debt of gratitude."
In her remarks, So, an immigrant from Hong Kong who is considering a career as an art therapist, shared her gratitude for the Thomas Chen Family/Crystal Windows endowment. So, who found it difficult to express herself in English during high school, said that, “art helped me to break out of my shell. Through art, I was able to communicate with my classmates, and I started making new friends. Art helped me build up my self-esteem. There is no language barrier in art, and I think that is the beauty of it.” She added, “it is wonderful to see Queens College encouraging people from different backgrounds and young immigrant artists to learn more about art. With the support from Mr. Chen and his family, more young immigrant artists like myself can have the opportunity to achieve our dream. And hopefully, one day, there will be more immigrant or Asian artists' work in museums.”
About Queens College
Queens College produces more education graduates who become principals, teachers, and counselors for the city’s public schools than any other college in the metropolitan area. The college contributes to the local talent pool as a powerful economic engine and a leader in tech education. Students from across the country and around the world are attracted to study at the Aaron Copland School of Music. Its renowned faculty and alumni include nationally recognized composers, conductors, and performers who have received over 100 Grammy Awards and nominations.
Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. With its graduate and undergraduate degrees, honors programs, and research and internship opportunities, the college helps its more than 20,000 students realize their potential in countless ways, assisted by an accessible, award-winning faculty. Located on a beautiful, 80-acre campus in Flushing, the college has been cited by Princeton Review as one of America's Best Value Colleges for four consecutive years, as well as being ranked a U.S. News and World Report Best College and Forbes Magazine Best Value College thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. Visit our homepage to learn more.
About Crystal Window and Door Systems
Crystal Window and Door Systems is among the top 30 North American manufacturers of replacement and new construction vinyl and aluminum window and door products and high-end fenestration systems. Headquartered in New York, the company operates a national network of factories, branches, subsidiaries and affiliates in California, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, employing a 750-person workforce. Founded by Thomas Chen, company chairman, the company is now led in its daily operations by his son Steve Chen, who serves as president. It has been recognized by Crain’s New York Business as a Top New York City-Area Minority-Owned Business; a 2020 Best Company to Work for by U.S. Glass Magazine, for its extraordinary response to the 2020 pandemic; a Top New York Family Business by Crain’s New York Business; and a Top 100 Window Manufacturer by the National Glass Association’s Window and Door Magazine. Learn more from the Crystal Window and Door Systems website.