Remembrances of Rosalyn Koo
Co-Founder of the 1990 Institute
It is with a heavy heart that we share with you the sad news that on Saturday night, January 30, our beloved Founder and indefatigable Honorary Board Chair, Roz Koo, passed away. Fortunately, she was with her family and died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 92. Roz, after her retirement as the CFO of MBT Associates in San Francisco, devoted her life to service.
For the 1990 Institute, Roz will forever remain in our thoughts and will be remembered for her determined and driving spirit as she established our fourteen-year Spring Bud program to help 1,000 young girls in Shaanxi province stay in school through graduation, and some even through college and graduate programs. She leaves a living legacy of young women in China who benefited from her philanthropy and was honored as a citizen of the year for her efforts by the Chinese government. Roz also raised the funds, found the architects, and saw through the construction of a green K-12 school in southern Shaanxi after a damaging earthquake struck neighboring Sichuan province.
Roz joined and strengthened many non-profit projects in the Bay Area. One of her legacy projects is Self-Help for the Elderly. She joined its board in 1986 and assisted the organization with planning and financing strategies to expand their services. On the morning of her passing, she received the wonderful news that her beloved Self-Help for the Elderly Center in San Mateo would have a good chance to build a permanent home there.
She will always be remembered as a person who would fight and support women and underserved communities. She had a strong sense of community and purpose and we will miss her dearly and remember her fondly. What a wonderful woman and a role model for us all.
May she rest in peace.
We have received the following tributes to Roz and would like to share them with you.
Poem by James Luce, former Board member of the 1990 Institute:
The Thunder That Fills a Vacuum
by James Luce
Builder of buildings and of lives
Strong, smart, solid as cobalt steel
Although she’s gone, her work survives,
Filling the empty spaces in life’s wheel
Friend, wife, mother to a thousand girls
Quiet but not shy, never seeking acclaim,
The hub around which progress swirls,
Showcased in the Women’s Hall of Fame
The ocean is but a drop of water
Compared to what Roz has left to us
To her life we affix our imprimatur
If only the world were as harmonious
No life is eternal… yet Roz is not gone so long as we remember her.
See you later, Roz… in my next memory.
Tribute by William Lee, Co-Founder of the 1990 Institute:
(Billy Lee is also a member of F.F. Fraternity. F.F. Fraternity was founded in 1910 as the first Chinese American student fraternity in the United States.)
Roz Koo, A Friend With A Most Distinctive Personality
by Billy Lee
I first met Roz in 1975 when F.F. Brother Professor Victor Li introduced me to the board
of the Chinese Cultural Center, San Francisco. Roz was the Chairperson there –
caught in the middle of an internal battle on whether to give priority to getting
prestigious exhibitions from mainland China or to help local artists and promote
their talents and exposures. I sensed that she was a very strong and tough leader.
Later, from the San Francisco Architectural circle, I learned that Roz became a Partner of the prestigious MBT Architecture and Planning firm. When the principal partner of MBT left to become Dean of Harvard’s School of Architecture, Roz indeed coached the other mostly design-oriented associates at MBT on how to promote their talents, win difficult competitions, and survive a period of deep economic depression.
As Roz’s husband, Karlson, was a F.F. Brother, I also learned that Roz served as the campaign manager for F.F. Brother Thomas Hsieh, who became the first San Francisco Supervisor of Chinese descent. “Wow, this lady has multiple talents,” I thought.
When Dr. Hang Sheng Cheng and F.F. Brother C.B. Sung tapped me and F.F. Brother Henry
Chan to help organize a volunteer group to do research on China and U.S. Relations,
I immediately thought of Roz. Both Hang Sheng and C.B. were so impressed with Roz.
They invited her to be a core member right away. She said she was impressed by the two gentlemen as well, but promised only to give maximum three years to help get
The 1990 Institute launched. Roz had been with The 1990 Institute ever since. In my opinion, Roz, H.S., and C.B. were the key leaders during the early phase of The 1990 Institute’s History. She was distinctly instrumental in resolving occasional arguments between the two key gentlemen.
Indeed, Roz taught me how to raise funds among friends in the U.S. and how to relate
to Women Leaders in China, as I worked with the All China Women’s Federation and China’s National Children’s Center to promote The 1990 Institute’s Xin Xin Jiao
(Heart to Heart Bridging) and U.S.- Chinese Children’s Art and Environment Projects.
As we worked more closely together, we became more intimate friends. She shared with me her stories about her almost getting expelled from McTyeire Middle School in Shanghai, and having my handsome neighbor, Albert, as her suitor for a brief time.
Among so many good old friends, Roz certainly had a most distinctive personality.
She will be sorely missed indeed!