When Howard Huang decided to make his first major philanthropic contribution, he had a very selective list of potential recipients.
“Virginia Tech was at the top of the list,” the Virginia Tech alumnus ’82 said. “From the football games to frisbee on the Drillfield, Virginia Tech and Blacksburg were such an incredible part of my life.”
Now living in Atlanta with his wife, Laura, who is originally from Huntington, West Virginia, and their two adopted daughters from China, Huang wanted to make a gift to his alma mater that reflected the cultural diversity of his family and honored the Appalachian heritage and artistry of his wife’s late grandmother, Dorothy Lambert.
“We have these wonderful quilts in the house that Laura’s grandmother made. I’ve got a dulcimer on my den’s wall she played. And we have art that she did — folk art that she painted,” he said. “She was a big part of my wife’s life and I want to honor her folk art contributions, which is really important for Southwest Virginia. Building bridges between cultures — I think that’s important for everyone.”
For Huang, the arts played a very influential role during his time at Virginia Tech, which has inspired him to support culturally-diverse, arts-based opportunities that are accessible to all Virginia Tech students.
“We didn’t have the Moss and its master classes back then, but I took advantage of what was available. Groups performed mostly at Burruss, and a few at Squires — everything from instrumentalists to Broadway. It was my first exposure to plays. I learned to love the arts at Virginia Tech,” he said.
Even though the Moss Arts Center was not a part of campus when Huang was an undergraduate, and he has not yet had an opportunity to visit the center, its mission resonates with him and his wife, Laura. Together, the couple established an endowment to honor Laura’s grandmother and support artistic and cultural engagement for Virginia Tech students.
Welcoming visiting artists from around the world, the Moss Arts Center celebrates humanity in all its many shapes, forms, sounds, and colors. The endowment will support the center’s work to connect Virginia Tech students with artists from underrepresented backgrounds through exclusive artistic and cultural engagement opportunities, such as master classes, workshops, and group discussions. By engaging with these artists face-to-face, students can better understand people and cultures different from their own.
“We’re so very grateful to Howard and Laura for their generous gift,” said Ruth Waalkes, executive director of the Moss Arts Center and associate provost for the arts at Virginia Tech. “Support like this is vital as we continue to provide Virginia Tech students with meaningful arts experiences — on our stage, in our galleries, and in classrooms. The arts are a critical part of a college student’s experience, bringing meaning and depth to their academic work, while reflecting the diversity of a world they’re about to enter.”
“The arts are part of a well-rounded education,” Huang said. “As people go from their teens to their 20s — that’s a pivotal point where you open your eyes and you expand your universe. The arts should be a part of that.”