Gift Helps Asian-American Studies Program Continue to Build Cultural Bridges
Dr. Nelson Kiang supports the Asian-American Studies Program at UMass Boston because of a life-long interest in promoting cross-cultural understanding.
Born in China and raised in a diplomatic family, Dr. Kiang (pronounced Jiang in Mandarin) collected all sorts of books on the United States to better understand his new country when the family immigrated. To help today’s Chinese gain similar insights, the emeritus professor at MIT and Harvard and retired researcher at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Massachusetts General Hospital has sent over 15,000 English-language books to the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.
“In 1982, when the Center started there were very few English-language books in Shanghai,” recalled Dr. Kiang, attributing this to the Japanese occupation of China during World War II and the subsequent Communist takeover. “Usually the academics concentrate on official publications, which don’t give them a complete picture of what the United States is like, with all its subcultures. The books we send them on topics at all levels help promote deeper understanding between the two countries.”
Dr. Kiang feels that his son, Dr. Peter Kiang, is building similar cultural bridges as the director of the Asian-American Studies Program at UMass Boston. Peter Kiang, a professor of education, received the 2007 Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award for making the curriculum come alive and empowering his students to challenge their thinking. They are predominately Asian, immigrant and refugee students who have struggled to reach college.
“Peter has done very well in helping Asian-American students understand and adapt to American culture,” Dr. Kiang said. “A lot of individuals have been affected positively by this worthwhile program.”
To support the Asian-American Studies Program at UMass Boston, Dr. Kiang has made tax-free rollover gifts from his Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Through the end of 2009, individuals aged 70½ or older can donate up to $100,000 from traditional and Roth IRAs to public charities without having to count the distributions as taxable income.
“If you roll the distribution directly from the IRA without getting any of the money yourself, it doesn’t count as part of your income,” Dr. Kiang explained. “It’s a great tactical mechanism to use when you donate to charity. You get a tax break on top of helping a program you support.”
With the recent turmoil in the financial markets, some Americans may be reluctant to make charitable gifts. “We can’t let the financial problems of the moment divert our attention,” Dr. Kiang said. “This is the time to step up and show what we believe in. For me, supporting the Asian-American Studies Program at U Mass Boston is an important priority in improving understanding between Asians and Americans.”