Forest Grove Campus Library Named for Alumni Tim '74 and Cathy Tran '74
A 10,000-mile journey that began in Vietnam for Pacific University alumni Tim ’74 and Cathy Tran ’74 culminated at the university’s Forest Grove Campus on Friday, Oct. 6, with the naming of the library in their honor as part of Pacific's annual Homecoming festivities.
The naming of the library at the Forest Grove Campus as the Tim & Cathy Tran Library came at the recommendation of the Pacific Board of Trustees earlier this year, in recognition of the establishment of the Khiem “Tim” Tran ’74 and Thuy “Cathy” Tran ’74 Library Endowment. Pacific University President Lesley Hallick announced the endowment to more than 150 guests in attendance during the dedication ceremony. Their gift will provide operational support to fund teaching, learning and the scholarly environment of Pacific University students and employees through the perpetual support of the university libraries.
"The support the Trans have given will last in perpetuity," Hallick said. "And we will strive to offer each of our students the kind of welcome, support and opportunities for discovery that the Trans found here. We are so incredibly proud of their success and grateful for their support.”
The Trans’ formative adult years began at Pacific in the early 1970s, and laid the foundation for what Tim Tran called a “laser-focused” work ethic that saw him ascend to chief financial officer at Johnstone Supply, and saw Cathy embark on successful roles at US Bank and The Standard. Their desire to give back to Pacific stems from personal relationships they developed in Forest Grove upon their arrival as young students from South Vietnam in 1970.
English Professor George Evans and his wife, Donna, opened their home to the Trans shortly after their arrival at Pacific. Soon after, Tim Tran began tutoring math to low-income teenagers through the university’s Upward Bound program, where he befriended program leader, Roberta “Bobbi” Nickels ’70.
The Trans returned to South Vietnam immediately following graduation, and soon found themselves in the midst of wartime chaos and an uncertain future. Their successful attainment of higher education and an implicit promise of a better life looked like it may have been in vain.
As the Vietnam War continued to escalate, the Evanses and Nickels became very concerned for Tim and Cathy’s safety. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Nickels spearheaded an effort to help South Vietnamese refugees, and in doing so, provided shelter and a new sense of hope to one of Tim’s sisters, who managed to escape.
“When my youngest sister escaped Saigon all by herself, Bobbi opened her home to my sister,” Tim Tran recounted. “Bobbi’s parents, Nick and June, treated my sister as one of their daughters. Nick and June are no longer with us, but I can imagine they are looking down from heaven with smiles on their faces.”
For the next four years, Tim and Cathy Tran endured oppression and hardship under Communist rule. They lost all material possessions and resources, often went hungry and lost physical strength as a result. Yet they persevered and ultimately risked their lives in 1979 to try to escape the country with more than 350 others on a vessel designed to carry 60 people.
At sea, the Trans and other refugees staved off chronic thirst and starvation, turbulent and unforgiving waters in pure darkness, pirate attacks, and the looming threat of detection by Communist soldiers before arriving at a camp in Malaysia.
“When I returned to South Vietnam upon my graduation in 1974, it was the fulfillment of a young man’s hopes and dreams,” Tran said. “Those hopes and dreams quickly vanished with the Communist victory in 1975. It was a watershed moment, the biggest crisis of my life.”
Tran noted that the word crisis is expressed in Vietnamese as “nguy co,” which translates in English to “danger and opportunity.” Despite the risks, Tim said, he and Cathy were determined to regain their freedom and chart their own futures.
“I had the biggest opportunity coming to America,” Tran said. “How do you spell the word opportunity? I prefer to spell it with three letters: U.S.A.”
Tim Tran hopes the endowment he and Cathy helped establish will play an important role in helping future generations of Pacific students enhance their educations, advance their professional careers and realize their dreams the way the Trans have.
“To me personally, coming here today and attending this dedication is the completion of a long journey of almost 38 years and more than 10,000 miles,” Tran said. “I’m glad it ended right here.”
The dedication of the Tim & Cathy Tran Library was attended by friends of the Trans, Evanses, and Nickels, current and former faculty members, university staff, students, alumni, members of Pacific’s Board of Trustees and members of the Forest Grove community. Isaac Gilman, Director of Libraries, spoke at the event of the necessity of libraries in a time when school districts are shutting down libraries due to lack of interest and support. Gilman recognized the Trans’ gift as being transformational for the future of Pacific libraries.
Tim and Cathy memorialized their appreciation of the love and support they received from Bobbi Nickels and George and Donna Evans by dedicating plaques in their honor, displayed on the walls of the second floor of the library.
The grand finale of the event was the reveal of the new signs for the Tim & Cathy Tran Library. The sign on the building’s exterior above the library entrance was revealed a little prematurely thanks to a large gust of wind, to laughs from the audience. The remaining signs were uncovered as Tim, Cathy, Bobbi, George and Donna were invited to the front of the audience for recognition by President Hallick.
After the dedication, guests were invited to enjoy coffee and cake in the library atrium. The cake was created as a 3-D model of the library, complete with the building’s new name on the exterior. Guests were also invited to take a tour of the library, led by the library’s student workers.
Built in 2005, the Forest Grove Campus library was Pacific’s first LEED-certified building, constructed with sustainable design practices. The three-floor facility is home to an extensive book and media collection, as well as study centers, computer labs, conference space, archives and an impressive art collection. It is also home to the emerging Pacific University Press.
Serving students and faculty in Forest Grove as well as the larger community, the Tim & Cathy Tran Library will continue to be a place of inspiration, fostering inquiry, collaborative learning and discovery in support of the mission that the Trans found for meaningful at Pacific.