Spotlight On Educator and Activist Dr. William Chun-Hoon

Journey Lefay, Librarian, International Languages,
Portrait of Dr. William "Bill" Chun-Hoon and the Chinatown Branch Library in the background
Educator and community activist Dr. William Chun-Hoon (1928 - 2019)

Dr. William "Bill" Chun-Hoon (1928 - 2019) was an educator and a community activist for the community of Chinatown in Los Angeles. Chun-Hoon was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and was the 12th child in a family of 15. In 1973, Dr. Chun-Hoon became the first Chinese American principal for the Los Angeles Unified School District, working at Castelar Elementary School in Los Angeles' Chinatown. Dr. Chun-Hoon was one of the pioneers of community schools and bilingual education to help serve the immigrant communities that came into the United States after the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which helped bring over East Asians and, later, Southeast Asians after the Vietnam War. Dr. Chun-Hoon made Castelar School a hub for the community, creating space for community programs, a space for adult classes for parents, and pilot bilingual education programs in Spanish and Chinese. Dr. Chun-Hoon, as part of the Friends of the Chinatown Library, spearheaded the push for a local Los Angeles Public Library branch in Chinatown, first at Castelar Elementary and later at its current location on Hill and Ord Streets. Dr. Chun-Hoon is survived by his wife, two children, and four grandchildren.

Portrait of Dr. William Chun-Hoon
Portrait of Dr. William Chun-Hoon, principal of Castelar School in Chinatown, Los Angeles. He was the first Chinese American principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District, [1973]. Shades of L.A.: Chinese American Community

During the 1970's and 1980's, Chun-Hoon hired teachers from diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds to support bilingual education and created adult literacy classes for parents and grandparents. Chun-Hoon’s efforts to build a community around Castelar Elementary also allowed community organizations such as the Chinese Historical Society, the Friends of the Chinese American Museum and the Chinatown Branch Library a way to congregate, organize and evolve.

Group of students, administrators and supporters of Castelar School
Group planting shrub at Castelar School. At left is Dr. Chun-Hoon, third from left, standing Regina Lai. Fourth from left is Joanne Semon, fifth from left, rear Assistant Principal Walter Simmons, third from right Poi Wong, President of the Chinese Benevolent Association, [1977]. Shades of L.A.: Chinese American Community

William Chun-Hoon served on the California Community Colleges Board of Governors under Governor Jerry Brown. He was an active supporter of the Chinese Historical Society and a Director of the Friends of the Chinatown Library, where he was a member of its scholarship committee. In 2005, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Chinese American Museum.

Mayor Bradley visiting Castelar School
Mayor Tom Bradley visiting Castelar School, 850 Yale Street. L to R Consul General of the Republic of China (name not known), Dr. Chun-Hoon, unidentified, Mayor Bradley, Bill Hall, [1974]. Shades of L.A.: Chinese American Community
Dr. Chun-Hoon receiving an award for service as first Chinese American principal of a Los Angeles School District school
Dr. Chun-Hoon receiving award for service as the first Chinese American principal of a Los Angeles School District school (Castelar School). L to R Ruby Ling Luie, Senator David Roberti, Dr. Chun-Hoon, Superintendant John Lingal, [1973]. Shades of L.A.: Chinese American Community

Suggested Activities

  • Visit the Chinatown Branch Library and visit the Chinese Heritage Collection.
  • Explore the Garnier Building, the oldest building left of L.A.’s original Chinatown. It currently houses the Chinese American Museum.
  • Visit the Los Angeles Public Library’s online exhibit "Stories and Voices from L.A. Chinatown," available at exhibits.lapl.org/chinatown.
thumbnail of Chun Hoon coloring page

Coloring page


 

 

 

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