Son of Chinese immigrants appointed president at Queens College

Photo via Queens College

The incoming president at Queens College is an academician who believes in “bridge-building and cooperation on every level” and celebrating diversity.

Frank H. Wu, 53, was unanimously appointed the 11th president at Queens College by the CUNY board of directors, effective July 1, becoming the first Asian-American to serve in that role.

“I have been flattered when headhunters approached, but I was always comfortable where I was,” Wu said. “But when I heard Queens College was searching for a new president I said, ‘This is the one school for me. This specific place is meant for me.’ I wanted to be president of Queens College. I can’t wait to get there and become a part of the community, the students, the faculty, the staff and the stakeholders.” 

The son of Chinese immigrants, Wu grew up in Detroit, Michigan, watching gritty New York films such as “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Serpico,” “The French Connection” and “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3.” He always wanted to be a New Yorker himself.

“And I remember when President Gerald Ford told New York City to drop dead,” Wu said. “And then New York City went through a renaissance and the single biggest factor that propelled New York City back to the top was immigration. People from every corner of the world were drawn to John F. Kennedy’s Beacon of Hope. That’s how my parents got here. They believed in higher learning. The American Dream is tied to learning. To better educate yourself.”

Wu has made a career of breaking barriers and creating opportunities for student success. He was the first Asian-American on the faculty of the law school at historically black Howard University and he spent a decade serving Gallaudet University, which offers higher education to deaf and hearing-impaired students. Most recently, Wu has been a Distinguished Professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law but he is ready for the cross-country move.

“The entire world is represented by the immigrant community in New York City but in Queens particularly. You have all of these folks with completely different cultural backgrounds all becoming New Yorkers and I needed to be a part of this. It’s magical and it’s happening in Queens, and it’s happening at Queens College, the heart of the borough.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng, who represents Flushing — where the Queens College campus is located — is looking forward to working with Wu in his new capacity.

“I have known Frank Wu for several years and I am honored to congratulate him as we enter this new and exciting chapter of Queens College,” Meng said. “Queens College does extraordinary work in preparing students for their futures. It continues to be a beacon of higher education, and I am confident that under Frank Wu’s leadership, the institution’s success will soar even higher. I am also pleased to congratulate Frank Wu for making history by becoming the first Asian-American president at Queens College.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky concurred.

“As the chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, I am delighted by the appointment of new Queens College president, Professor Frank H. Wu. Queens College is a gem of public higher education, and I am proud to be its state senator,” Stavisky said. “Professor Wu’s resume speaks for itself, and I am proud to see the first Asian-American appointed president of a college in Queens. I look forward to meeting with Professor Wu in the coming days to discuss ways the state can help ensure Queens College continues to provide accessibility and a top-quality education for its student body.”

Wu and his wife will live in Kew Garden Hills within walking distance of the campus. His July 1 starting date should coincide with the borough’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“This moment is unprecedented. This is unlike any other experience we’ve ever had,” Wu said. “I want to present a way forward and it’s all about resiliency. We will roll up our shirtsleeves and ask how we can help when we come out on the other side of this.”