May 20, 2021

Ai-lien Ong


An Alumnae Network, An Extended Family

Ai-lien and Fen Ong

Ai-lien Yuan Ong’s three sons agree that the two most important things in her life were her love for her family and her dedication to Ginling College and its alumnae. She and her husband, Fen, presided over a loving, four-generation family, and while they spent their nearly 70 years of marriage in the United States, her sense of connection to her Chinese alma mater remained constant. “She had extremely positive memories of her Ginling experience,” her son Arthur recalled, “and Ginling associations and friendships were a part of the fabric of her life.”

Mrs. Ong attended Ginling College during and after World War II, graduating in 1948. She met her future husband during her college years, and within a few years of her graduation, she joined Fen in New York, where he was a graduate student at Columbia University, and they were married. They raised their family in New York and later moved to California for their retirement years. “Growing up, we could see that Ginling alumne activities were a big part of her life,” her son Larry said, and the three brothers remembered how she would bring them and her father to alumnae events – often the only men in “a room filled with strong women.”

Mrs. Ong leaned on Ginling alumnae during her early years in the United States. “My parents had planned to go back to China – they wanted to help rebuild China,” Arthur said, but they ultimately made a difficult decision not to return. “That’s when the network of Ginling alumnae provided support to each other,” he said. “They helped each other adjust to life in the United States and, eventually, become Americans.”  And, as time went on, she and other members of the Ginling Alumnae Association of America made generous contributions, through the United Board, to support scholarships and new buildings at their alma mater.

An alumnae gathering at Ginling in the 1980s.

After Mrs. Ong passed away in August 2019, her family began a conversation with the United Board about ways to honor her memory. The family decided to establish an endowment fund to support women’s education and leadership. “The focus on women’s leadership seemed natural,” her son Lyndon said. “It was an extension or progression of her Ginling support, as the need to educate women to be leaders still exists.”

Mrs. Ong’s three sons emphasize that the endowment is, in essence, a gift from both of their parents. “One did not function without the other,” Larry said, “and in all her activities, our mother had our father’s support.” Now the support of the Ong family will take a new form, as their endowment will continue a legacy of giving young Asian women opportunities to learn, network, lead, and thrive.


Endowment support is one way to support the network institutions and issues that are important to you. Please contact Trudy Loo, Director of Development at 212-870-2612 or by email ( to begin a conversation on establishing an endowment fund that will provide long-term support and enduring impact.