Keynote Speaker Dr. James Nguyen Announces Donation at Santa Ana College's 2022 Commencement
(Santa Ana, Calif.) —Dr. James Nguyen ('98), a Santa Ana College (SAC) Alumni Hall of Fame recipient, prestigious cardiologist, and distinguished keynote speaker for the 2022 Commencement held on June 2, announced at the end of his speech a monumental $50,000 gift to start a scholarship in honor of his parents.
“They are the inspiration for this scholarship," Nguyen said in his speech. “My parents escaped to America after the Vietnam War and came to this country with nothing but the hope of a better life and embracing the American dream." Nguyen, an Orange County native, made news headlines as a child prodigy when he started attending SAC at age 12. In his commencement speech, he shared the story of his journey, his reputation of being a troublemaker in class, and how he received poor grades. Nguyen told his mom and educators that the classes were too easy and that he was not being challenged. After his mom visited his classes and saw firsthand that it was true, she asked and advocated for him to be placed in more challenging courses. He soon excelled and later, when his mom was a SAC employee, gained an opportunity to attend college before even entering his teen years.
“Santa Ana College challenged me to satisfy my own intellectual curiosity and seek wisdom not just from textbooks but from colleagues and mentors," Nguyen said.
He graduated with an associate degree in biology from Santa Ana College, a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of California, Irvine, and later a doctor of medicine from St. George's University.
Nguyen was driven to learn and excel, and despite a series of failures and hurdles before getting into medical school, he is now a leading interventional cardiologist and the chest pain medical director for the Manatee Memorial Hospital in Florida. (Read this spotlight for more details on Nguyen's story: Santa Ana College's Child Prodigy Now a Cardiologist).
“Santa Ana College taught me that no matter what barriers or hardships you face, you can overcome this simply by believing in yourself and knowing who you are," Nguyen said. “Life will happen, and your defining moment is what you will do when you meet an obstacle or face failure."
Dr. Vaniethia Hubbard, vice president of Student Services at Santa Ana College, was pleased that Nguyen accepted the invitation to serve as this year's keynote speaker after hearing him speak at this year's grand opening of the new $70 million Science Center.
“Like Dr. Nguyen, so many of our students from diverse backgrounds have had to overcome many obstacles to reach this point," Vice President Hubbard said. “I am extremely proud of our students, as well as the staff, faculty, and managers in navigating the vast changes in higher education and being able to celebrate these achievements together at Angel Stadium."
In Nguyen's speech, he gave tribute to his mother, who he described as a high school graduate who later pursued her bachelor's degree while working full time.
“She endured financial hardships and made sacrifices for my well-being," Nguyen said. “She taught me how to succeed through life's obstacles and showed me the rainbow after the storm. My mother is the original Avenger. I thank her every day for believing that this troublemaker was not really a troublemaker."
Nguyen, a new parent himself, can now testify to the hard work of being a parent and that “the struggle is real."
Christina Romero, executive director of the Office of College Advancement and the Santa Ana College Foundation, was moved by Nguyen's story and the inspiration behind his gift.
“On behalf of the Santa Ana College Foundation, I want to express how grateful and excited we are for Dr. Nguyen's impactful scholarship donation," Romero said. “We are inspired by him and his family's story and look forward to the positive impact this donation will make in the lives of our students. When alum like Dr. Nguyen come back to their alma mater and make this type of commitment, it says so much about them and the community colleges they graduated from."
For more information on ways to give to the Santa Ana College Foundation, visit sac.edu/foundation and rtgcampaign.org.
About Santa Ana College
Santa Ana College (SAC), which turned 100 years old in 2015, serves about 18,000 students each semester. The college prepares students for transfer to four-year institutions and provides workforce training for business and industry. In addition, another 11,000 students are served through the college's School of Continuing Education located at Centennial Education Center. Ranked as one of the nation's top, two-year colleges awarding associate degrees to Latino and Asian students, the college is also recognized throughout the state for its comprehensive workforce training programs for nurses, firefighters, law enforcement and medical personnel. SAC is one of two comprehensive colleges under the auspices of the Rancho Santiago Community College District.