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Texas Exes Asian Alumni Network » Alumni Spotlight » August Alumni Spotlight: Martha J. Wong, Ed. D.

August Alumni Spotlight: Martha J. Wong, Ed. D.

Martha Wong

Dr. Martha J. Wong, a native Houstonian, is a third generation Chinese American and the first Asian American elected to the Houston City Council. Her history making election occurred on December 4, 1993, when she captured 62 percent of the votes in a run-off for the District C seat. She was reelected two more times by overwhelming percentages.  In 2002 Martha made history again by beating a 22 year incumbent to become the first Asian American woman to serve in the Texas House of Representatives.  She became two vice chairs of committees and served two terms in the House.

Martha has a long list of firsts: first Asian American School Principal in the State of Texas; first Asian-American recognized by the Houston Federation of Women’s Award for Excellence in Education; first Asian American in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame; the first Asian American receiving the University of Houston’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Dr. Wong earned a Bachelor degree from the University of Texas and a masters and doctorate from the University of Houston.  She completed her doctorate after the death of her husband, Billy, and had three children in Texas universities at the same time.

Martha currently serves on the Boards / Advisory Boards of the Texas Asian Republican Caucus, the University of Houston Alumni Association, the Asian Pacific American Heritage Association, the American Leadership Forum, and Asian American Family Services, the Eye Care for Kids Foundation and the South Central Region and the Texas Arthritis Foundations.  Also Martha serves on the Board of the Magic Circle Republican Women’s Club as Legislative Chair.

Dr. Wong is a recognized leader in both the Asian American and the greater Houston Community.  She was been recognized for community service and dedication by the Greater Houston Women’s Foundation, the Houston Lion’s Eye Bank, the National Conference of Christian and Jews, the Texas Asian Republican Caucus, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Upper Kirby District, TREK, and the Texas Council of Women School Executives, the Chinese Community Center, the Variety Children’s Charity, to name some.

Martha J. Wong is a unique woman who has truly exemplified the best of two cultures. She has made Houston and Texas a better place to live through her work with many civic organizations and service as a Houston City Council Member and Texas State Representative for District 134.  And in her education profession, has made Texas education better for students and educators.   Martha has been a key player in bringing people together and providing leadership in untouched areas.

1. What is your favorite memory, tradition or thing about UT?

Gee, there are so many wonderful memories.  One of the best is attending the UT- OU game in Dallas.  What fun!  Drove to Dallas with a group of UT Asian American friends.  Went to the game and drove back the same night.  It was fun to be in that big stadium (at that time) and the great feeling of being a T-sipper.   A tradition that I loved was the” tapping ceremony” for Spooks Service Organization.   I was the first Chinese American to be tapped as an independent and was very proud to be a part of the great freshman service organization.  I became the President and former Texas Comptroller Carol Keeton Strahorm was the Sprit.  It was so much fun to wear our black uniform with armbands and go into the dinning halls of the sororities and dorms and “tap” a girl to become a member.

2. What advice do you have for incoming freshmen or current students?

Become a part of the University.  Serve on a Union committee, join organizations, go to games and make friends from all over the great state of Texas.

3. UT’s motto is “What starts here, changes the world.”  What is one thing you would like to see change at UT?

Not sure that I know enough about what is happening on campus, that I could recommend changes; but I would like to see more Asian Americans in high administrative positions- even Chancellor or President.

4. What motivated you to start your career in higher education?

I had been consulting as a Houston Independent School District Associate Superintendent for the Texas Education Agency and met many great educators from across the state.   At a conference, one of my superintendent friends introduced me to the Baylor University’s Dean of the School of Education who was looking for an experienced educator to add to the faculty.  I usually spend three years in apposition and moved to a higher level.  It was time to move to the next level.  I had earned my doctorate about 2 years earlier and I wanted to take advantage of using my doctorate and a new experience.  Thus I became an associate professor at Baylor University in Waco.

5. What’s one thing you’ve learned from UT outside of a classroom?

I learned how to live with many people because I lived in a dorm for three years.  I learned how other Americans lived (I was able to visit in some Austin homes and in the sorority houses) and to appreciate the “finer” things in life and have carried that appreciation into my life, i.e. China dishes, sterling sivler, crystal.  I use my “finer” things every day and enjoy them.  You must realize that I came from a very modest family: we first lived in a storeroom behind my dad’s grocery; then into a house where I shared a room with two sisters; and into a fine two story home that my father had built.  We had nice surrounding by the time I entered college but not fine China, sterling silver and crystal.

6. Who has been an important role model to you?

I have several role models.  One was my mom and dad, who were excellent examples of love, strength and encouragement.  Another role model was my principal, Irene Stone, who also was my mentor.  Another was the HISD Superintendent Billy Reagan, who taught me the importance of muti- tasking and much about politics.

7. What accomplishment have you been most proud of during your time as a state representative?

The greatest accomplishment was beating a 20 year incumbent and then being able to serve in that beautiful and great Capitol of Texas.  Another accomplishment was being an Asian American representing one of the wealthiest districts in Texas and passing bills that provided financial help to the Texas Medical Center.   I was proud to be a part of the Legislature that passed Tort Reform for the state of Texas and redistricting.  Those were very exciting days….. Remember that the Democrats left the state and we had to stay on the floor of the House past midnight.

8. What do you hope to see for Asian Americans in Texas in the future?

My hope is that more Asian Americans become leaders in Texas politics, in business, in education and in community organizations.  We have much talent and must use our talent for the betterment of our great state of Texas and this great United States of America. We can be role models for our children’s children.  I also hope that the UT Asian American Center will become a driving force to record the history of Asian Americans in Texas and the South.

What is your favorite memory, tradition or thing about UT?

Written by Ernie Chan

Filed under: Alumni Spotlight

One Response to "August Alumni Spotlight: Martha J. Wong, Ed. D."

  1. [...] The Honorable Martha Wong and the Center for Asian American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin invite you to join us for a luncheon celebrating the culture and history of Asians in Texas. [...]

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