May 6, 2015

I first met Sian when she was 18. She was an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California (USC) when I taught a course in East Asian Ceramics there a couple of years after I moved out here. She was one of the brightest and keenest in the class, and she already knew something about Asian art because her family owns one of the country’s oldest Asian antiques businesses, F. Suie One, in Pasadena, which was begun by Chinese immigrant Fong See (about whom his grand granddaughter Lisa See wrote in her book On Gold Mountain). I already knew Sian’s mother, but had no idea what a pleasure it would be to teach this young woman and later to work with her. At the time, I was about twice her age, but I was impressed at her maturity both as a student and as a person. She was so diligent about her studies and keen to learn more that I hired her that summer to be my intern at the museum, where I was working full-time. (The USC gig was on my days off!) Spending the summer working with her, again I was impressed at how much responsibility she could handle, how efficiently she work, and what an amazingly generous and talented person she was. I overheard her telling a staff member that she was cooking Cornish game hen for her college friends that weekend, and was blown away. I had never even roasted a chicken!


After the summer ended, I refused to give up my amazing assistant and was somehow able to hire Sian as my Curatorial Assistant, which she worked hard at until she was snatched away by the museum’s Development Department who needed her skills perhaps even more than I did. After a few years of organizing highly successful fundraiser events for the museum, Sian was inevitably lured away from the museum and has spent the last decade or so working as a development director for a variety of non-profit organizations, in the realms of public health, education and neighborhood development. At all of her positions, she has been a remarkably valuable team player and a great friend to her colleagues. She is also an extremely sane and stable person, and I mean that in a very good way – someone who is utterly dependable and undramatic – qualities that I really value in a colleague and a friend! As the years have passed, I have continued to be impressed by her many abilities and achievements, and feel honored to have played a small role early on in her career. In recent years, though, I’ve been watching them from further and further away, as our lives have become increasingly full of other responsibilities, work, family and now children. Two years ago, Sian, who was barely an adult when I first met her, had a son two years ago with her equally wonderful and impressive husband Ian. Though I have only met him a couple of times, alas, I can imagine Evan is growing into a smart, happy, friendly little boy like both his parents. I sent him one of my son Theo’s books about a lovable monster called Boris – he loved it when he was Evan’s age. Maybe at some later date, Theo and Even will be friends, despite their difference in age. Why not? It worked for his mother and me.


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