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INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED MILLS COLLEGE ALUMNA JADE SNOW WONG DIES
Oakland, CA - Jade Snow Wong (also known as Constance Wong Ong), internationally acclaimed author and ceramicist, and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Mills College, died on Thursday, March 16, 2006 at the age of 84. She served on the Board of Governors of the Mills College Alumnae Association from 1945-49, and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the College in 1976.
“Mills and the world have lost an extraordinary artist revered as a pioneering voice in society,” said Janet L. Holmgren, President of Mills College. “Wong represents the best of Mills in using her education to initiate social change, experiment with the connection between art and life, and set a standard for high achieving women who question and shape the social traditions they inherit.”
Wong majored in economics and sociology, and discovered her love of clay in 1942 during the last semester of her senior year. She began learning her craft as a potter through the summer session of that year. In a shipyard office during World War II, she applied her knowledge of economics and sociology to the problems of the war industry, and published her first writing. In 1945, she decided to continue her pottery work because “I thought that pottery would give me more time to write, and that writing was one way to lift oneself from the mediocrity that so many lives fall into.”
Wong wrote her autobiography in two volumes: Fifth Chinese Daughter (1950) and No Chinese Stranger (1975). Fifth Chinese Daughter, an instant bestseller, describes Wong as a first-generation American in a traditional Chinese family living in San Francisco. The book resulted in a request from the U.S. Department of State for her to tour Asia as part of the Leader and Specialist Exchange Program. In 1953, she spoke to more than 200 groups from Tokyo to Karachi, about the life of the Chinese people in the United States. That journey, and her trip with her husband, Woodrow Ong, to the People’s Republic of China in 1972 are described in No Chinese Stranger.
Prior to the publication of her first book, Wong achieved distinction and recognition as a clay and enamel artist. In 1947, her red enamel plate was among “100 Useful Objects of Fine Design” selected for national showing, and in that same year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), acquired a Wong bowl for its permanent collection.
In addition to remaining active as a Mills alumna, Wong worked with the San Francisco Public Library, the Asian Art Museum, the Chinese Cultural Center, and the Chinese Historical Society of America.
Wong is survived by her daughters Tyi (Mills alumna, Class of 1979) and Ellora (Mills Class of 1981), her sons Mark and Lance, and four grandchildren.
Mills College is a nationally renowned, independent liberal arts college offering innovative degree programs for undergraduate women, and graduate degree and certificate programs for women and men. Consistently ranked among the top 75 liberal arts colleges in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Mills is also recognized as one of the country’s 20 most diverse liberal arts colleges. The Princeton Review selected Mills as one of 11 colleges for first-time inclusion in its Best 361 Colleges in 2005. Nestled in the foothills of Oakland, California on 135 lush acres, Mills provides a dynamic liberal arts education fostering women’s leadership, social responsibility, and creativity.