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Asian American Pacific Heritage Month

Notable Asian and Pacific Islanders


Former San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

The Honorable Edwin Mah Lee was born May 5, 1952 in Seattle, Washington. He was an American politician and successful    attorney who made history serving as the 43rd Mayor of the beautiful city of San Francisco. Mayor Lee was the first Asian  American to hold this prestigious position. Mayor Lee was a member of the Democratic Party and served his party with honor  and dignity. He took office as San Francisco City  Administrator in 2005 and was later appointed on January 11, 2011 by the    San Francisco Board of Supervisors to serve out the remaining term of former Mayor Gavin Newsom. On November 8, 2011, he  won the election to serve as full term Mayor. Mayor Lee was reelected in 2015 and served until his untimely death on December  12, 2017. Mayor Lee will always be remembered as a cherished leader who worked hard and respected people from all walks  of  life. His legacy of kindness and respect have left a lasting positive effect on the city of San Francisco. The South San  Francisco Unified School District salutes the Honorable Mayor Edwin Mah Lee  for his dedication and service to all.





Jackie Chan

Chan Kong-sang  known around the world as the famous Jackie Chan was born April 7, 1954 in Hong Kong. The talented Mr. Chan is a martial artist, actor, film director, producer, stuntman, and singer.  His energetic performances include his acrobatic fighting style and stunts that he performs himself.  He is an accomplished vocalist who has released a number of albums. Mr. Chan has appeared in over 150 movies since the 1960s. He is a huge star on both the Eastern and Western hemispheres. His popularity led to him receiving stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is very generous with his money and often donates to organizations that help those in need. Mr. Chan is an extremely successful entertainer who has brought joy to audiences around the world. South San Francisco Unified School District salutes and thanks Mr. Jackie Chan.








Alice Bustos

Alice Bustos, or the “Grand Dame of Filipino-American Politics” was born March 31, 1930 in the Philippines. Always being a believer in education, she completed a Masters Program in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, where she later chaired the Department of Sociology. In 1970, she began dividing her time between Manila and San Francisco, where she was conducting research on the social adjustment and integration of Filipino immigrants in America. In 1972, she permanently moved to the United States with her husband and daughter. From then, she began to become a leader and educator in the Bay Area Filipino community. Her positions in the Bay Area include: board member of the Bayanihan Community Center, founder and former President of Thomasians, U.S.A., Vice-Chair of the California Fil-Am Democratic Caucus, President of the San Mateo Fil-Am Council and the San Mateo Fil-Am Democratic Club. In addition to the being active in the political scene, she was also a leader in Asian Women’s rights, as a member of the following: Sacramento Asian Pacific Women's Network, Pacific Asian American Women's Bay Area Coalition and a national organization, the Fil-Am Women's Network. (FAWN). Her contributions to the numerous communities led her to be named one of the ‘100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the US Award’. Her impact to the countless communities will not be forgotten as she passed away October 21, 2016. The SSFUSD celebrates and thanks Mrs. Alicia Peña Bulos. She is a remarkable woman, and her many accomplishments can be read here.



Tani Cantil Sakauye

Tani Sakauye was born October 19, 1959 in Sacramento CA, and is a mixed descent of Hawaiian, Portuguese, and Filipino. She attended Sacaramento City College, and graduated from UC Davis' School of Law. After she graduated law school, she was unable to find a job in the law sector, so she worked briefly as a blackjack dealer in Reno, Nevada. She did not work  as a blackjack dealer for long, because she then worked at the Sacramento County DA's office. In 1990, she was appointed as a Judge of the Sacramento Municipal Court. In 1997, she was then appointed her as a Judge of the Sacramento County Superior Court.  In 2005, when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her as an Associate Justice of the California Third District Court of Appeal. On the November 7, 2006 election she was retained by the voters. On July 21, 2010, Schwarzenegger nominated Cantil-Sakauye, who is also a Republican, to succeed retiring Chief Justice Ronald M. George on the California Supreme Court. On August 25, 2010, the three-member California Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously approved her nomination as the next chief justice of California. In the November 2010 general elections, voters retained her for a 12-year term as Chief Justice. Her notable achievements during her term as Chief Justice includes sweeping bail reform, civil discourse education for students, and the removal of immigration agents at courthouses. SSFUSD thanks the Honorable Tani Sakauye for her contributions to California law, the Asian American community, and her status as a role model for Asian Women who wish to pursue a career in law.




Sabeer Bhatia

Sabeer Bhatia is a famous Indian entrepreneur who created the widely-used email service, Hotmail. Hotmail was one of the pioneer mail hosting services used during the early days of the internet. While not so widely used today, his contributions to modern technology are still felt today. His contributions came at a time when the internet was in its infancy, which led many organizations to recognize his work. The venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson named Bhatia 'Entrepreneur of the Year 1997', and MIT chose him as one of 100 young innovators who are expected to have the greatest impact on technology and awarded 'TR100', San Jose Mercury News and POV magazine selected him as one of the ten most successful entrepreneurs of 1998 and Upside magazine's list of top trend setters in the New Economy named him 'Elite 100'. The South San Francisco Unified School District thanks and recognized Mr. Bhatia for his remarkable skills in entrepreneurship and technology.






Vern Yip

Vern Yip was born June 27 1968, in Hong Kong. He is an American interior designer based in Atlanta, Georgia, and periodically appeared on TLC's Trading Spaces through its fourth season. After graduating with a double major in chemistry and economics, he then received his masters in management and architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology. His varied educational background gave him a great deal of insight in the field of interior design. His signature interior design involves being able to integrate silk, candles, and flowers into his designs. That unique style was able to catch the attention of many interior design shows such as HGTV’s Design Star, Deserving Design, and Urban Oasis. He was also the TLC’s Trading Spaces. SSFUSD recognizes Vern Yip’s contribution to Asian American presence in media.





Kaplana Chowla

Kaplana Chowla was the first Indian woman to fly to outer space. She was born on March 17, 1962 in Karnal, India. Interested in space and aeronautics as a young child, she chose to pursue a career in the field by gaining a Bachelor of Engineering in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College. In 1982, she moved to the United States to further her education, and gained a Masters of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984. Then in 1988, she gained a second Masters and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder. After gaining her citizenship in 1991, she applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps and was finally able to join in 1995, and was selected for her first flight in 1996. Her first space mission took place in 1997 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia where she was responsible for satellite deployment. She was chosen for a second mission in 2000, but due to technical problems aboard the Columbia, the mission was postponed until 2003. She was finally able to take flight January 16, 2003, and this would come to be known as the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Due to insulation breaking from the ship, Columbia was not structurally sound during re-entry, and Kaplana, along with the rest of the Columbia crew perished. She was awarded the Space Medal of Honor by President Bush for her sacrifice in the name of space exploration. 





Sono Osato

Sono Osato is a famous ballet dancer, most prominent throughout the ninteen forties and fifties. She was born August 29, 1919 to a Japanese father and Irish-French Canadian mother. Osato began her career at the age of fourteen with the Ballets Russe de Monte-Carlo; she later went on to dance with American Ballet Theatre (then Ballet Theatre). While at ABT, she danced roles in such ballets as Kenneth MacMillan's Sleeping Beauty, Antony Tudor's Pillar of Fire, and Bronislava Nijinska's The Beloved. As a musical theater performer, her Broadway credits included principal dancer in One Touch of Venus (Donaldson Award), Ivy Smith in the original On the Town, and Cocaine Lil in "Ballet Ballads". In the late 1940s and 1950s, Osato briefly pursued a career as an actress, appearing on Broadway in Peer Gynt, in the film The Kissing Bandit, and in occasional guest appearances on TV series such as, The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1950). She is fluent in both Japanese and English. South San Francisco Unified School District recognizes Sono Osato's contribution to the arts.





Vera Wang

Vera Wang was born on June 27, 1949, in New York City. A former figure skater, Wang was senior fashion editor at Vogue for 15 years and then a design director for Ralph Lauren. She designed her own wedding dress, then opened a bridal boutique and soon launched her own signature collection. A talented figure skater, Wang competed professionally throughout her teens. In the 1968 and 1969 U.S. National Championships she and her partner, James Stuart, placed fifth in the junior pairs competition. Upon her graduation from college, in 1971, Wang shelved her skating career and began working for Vogue magazine. Within a year, at the age of 23, Wang was promoted to senior fashion editor. She held that title for the next 15 years. By balancing modern designs with traditional elegance, Wang has acquired a large following, particularly in Hollywood. Her fashions are frequently worn to film premieres and award ceremonies by a number of high-profile actresses. With all of her talent and success, Wang has become a high-profile figure in the fashion world.







Martin Yan

Born in Guangzhou, China, Yan always possessed a passion for cooking. His formal induction into the culinary world began at thirteen, with an apprenticeship at a renown Hong Kong restaurant. Training at Hong Kong’s Overseas Institute of Cookery followed. While pursuing an MS in Food Science (University of California/Davis, USA), he taught Chinese cooking for the university extension program. In 1978, he pioneered a Chinese cooking TV show: the now classic “Yan Can Cook.” Infused with his characteristic warmth, humor and vitality, the show quickly won a worldwide following. The format expanded to include distinct styles of Asian cooking, with Chef Yan traveling to culinary hot spots to introduce viewers to local food and customs. A popular guest-instructor, Yan also taught at the California Culinary Academy, Johnson & Wales University, The Chinese Cuisine Institute in Hong Kong, The Culinary Institute of America, and the University of San Francisco . In 1985, he founded the Yan Can International Cooking School. Among his many accolades, he has notably been recognized for the 2004 James Beard Award and Best National TV Cooking Show Award. His TV series, “Martin Yan’s Chinatowns,” won a Telly Award in 2004. The companion book was cited by Newsweek as one of “The Year’s 10 Best Cookbooks.” In 2002, Chef Yan was honored as “California Chef of the Year” and named an Honorary Chairman of The International Association of Culinary Professionals Foundation. Chef Yan proves invigorating as well as educational. He is dedicated to dispelling the mysteries of Asian cooking, and furthering an understanding of the cultures that created these cuisines, with spirited fun and entertainment.


Ellison Onizuka

Ellison Onizuka was the first Asian American, and Japanese astronaut to reach space. He was born June 24 1946 in Kealakekua, Hawaii. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering in June 1969, and a Master of Science degree in that field in December of the same year, from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Then in 1970, he entered the United States Air Force where he served as a flight test engineer and test pilot. After establishing his Air Force career, he entered the USAF Test Pilot School, and this experience gained as a test pilot earned him a spot for astronaut selection in 1978. Onizuka's first space mission took place on January 24, 1985, with the launch of mission STS 51-C on Space Shuttle Discovery, the first space shuttle mission for the Department of Defense. During the mission, he was responsible for the activities of the primary payloads, which included the unfolding of the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) surface. After 48 orbits around the Earth, Discovery landed at Kennedy Space Center on January 27, 1985. He had completed a total of 74 hours in space. In 1986, he was again scheduled for space flight aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. This mission would be the Ill-fated Discovery mission. 73 seconds into the mission, a flame leaking from a ruptured solid rocket booster ignited the liquid nitrogen fuel tank, and he perished along with his crew. For his actions, he was posthumously promoted to the rank of Colonel, awarded the Space Medal of Honor, and had many streets named after him throughout America.





George Takei

George Hosato Takei was born Hosato Takei on April 20, 1937 in Los Angeles, California to Japanese-American parents. Since he was born during the years of WWII, he and his family were required to be relocated to the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Rowher Arkansas. Only at the conclusion of the war was he allowed to move back to LA. Back in his hometown, he finished his high school education and began college at Cal Berkeley to pursue an architecture degree. However, he transferred later to UCLA, where he received his Bachelors and Masters in theater. After he graduated, he began to work in Hollywood, where he did voice-overs for Asian movies imported stateside.  He was able to gain television roles and in 1965 is when he began his most famous role (Star Trek) which would propel him into a cult-status pop culture icon. His run on Star Trek was huge success, and has helped him later in his life. Today, George Takei is an advocate for LGBT issues, a source of inspiration for Asian American actors like himself, and is a prominent figure on social media. SSFUSD celebrates George Takei and his contributions to the Asian American community.




Chien-Shiung Wu