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Diamond Alum Nguyen has drive for success
Photos and Story by Kate Chester
Five graduates of Portland Community College who have become community leaders along their professional and personal journeys since attending PCC have been tapped by the college to receive this year’s Diamond Alum Awards.
The 2014 winners include Abel Ahumada Alaniz of Garden Home, Cheryl Burgermeister of Southwest Portland, Rep. Chris Gorsek of Troutdale, Peggy Halley of Hillsboro and Hung “Lee” Nguyen of Beaverton. The award winners will be honored as part of PCC’s annual celebration of “Founders’ Week,” May 12-17, when the college salutes its history and accomplishments by way of a slate of activities in which staff, faculty, students, and the public at large can participate. Additionally, the honorees will celebrate together on June 11, in a special luncheon linked to commencement on June 13.
“I am so impressed by the caliber of the nominations we received, as well as the achievements of the winners selected this year,” said Jeremy Brown, president, Portland Community College.
“These five graduates exhibit the qualities of which the college is so proud. Each demonstrates a strong work ethic, a positive outlook on life, and a desire to give back to the community at large. We are delighted to honor them this year, to showcase their efforts and the inspiration they offer to others,” he said.
The judging committee was made up of a collective of external constituents, two former Diamond Alum Award winners, and PCC staff.
Diamond Alum: Hung “Lee” Nguyen
Born in Vietnam in 1967, Hung “Lee” Nguyen, one of five award winners, immigrated to the United States with his family of five when he was 25 years old. The family – Nguyen’s parents and two younger sisters – had few material possessions to speak of; they simply were grateful for having successfully made the journey together to join Nguyen’s older brother, Hai, who had arrived to America in 1980.
Nguyen understood the importance of integrating himself into this new culture with a foreign language, customs and traditions so that he could succeed and help his family. The prospect was challenging: a bit scary but also exciting.
To do this, Nguyen seized the opportunity to pursue higher education in his new homeland. He arrived to the country in 1992, barely able to speak English. Three years later, he had learned to read and write fluently in English — and earned his associate’s degree at Portland Community College, from the Automotive Technology program at the Sylvania Campus. Additionally, he encouraged his younger sisters to attend PCC, which they did, as did his wife, Vivian.
Since then Nguyen has established himself as an expert, trustworthy mechanic. With a healthy following of loyal clients, he opened his own automotive service company, Canyon Auto Repair, Inc., in Beaverton in 1999. Its success prompted Nguyen to open a second shop, Canyon Auto Repair & Collision in Tigard four years ago.
He credits PCC for giving him the confidence to launch his own business. And how does Nguyen give back to the college that helped him professionally? One way has been by hiring new PCC automotive technology graduates; at last count Nguyen had five working for him at both the Beaverton and Tigard shops, one of whom has worked at the Beaverton location for 15 years.