Linda, Melba and Freda Wang are graduates of Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, respectively, and all three have pursued careers on the east coast. They neither went to the University of Washington nor are any of them accountants.
Yet last year the three sisters created a $100,000 endowed fund to support graduate accounting students at the UW Foster School of Business.
The story behind this unexpected gift begins in China on May 7, 1929, the day that Nancy Fulan (Liu) Wang—their mother—was born, the first child of Fah-Hsuen Liu and Hsing-Sun Chang Liu. Nancy and her three younger sisters and three younger brothers grew up in several provinces. She earned a BA in Business Administration from National Taiwan University (NTU) in 1953, graduating first in her class—one of many firsts that would be ascribed to her.
While at NTU, Nancy met Wilson Shueh-mong Wang and they married in 1956. After eldest daughter Linda was born, Nancy and Wilson decided the best future for their young family was in the United States. Nancy applied to the UW to study master’s-level accounting and departed Taipei, traveling on a merchant ship across the Pacific to begin a new chapter.
She was the first of either side of the family to immigrate to the US.
Despite navigating an unfamiliar culture and language on her own, Nancy rose to the top of her class and was recruited by Seattle’s Westours prior to graduation. “She is an outstanding individual with excellent mental capabilities and an excellent grasp of the accounting field,” wrote Julius Roller, then chair of the Accounting Department, in a letter of recommendation.
Nancy was soon joined by Wilson and Linda in Seattle and, shortly thereafter, their second daughter Melba was born. They moved from Seattle to Cleveland and then Pittsburgh, where Freda was born. The family subsequently moved to New York, California, Tokyo, Hong Kong and, finally, Nancy and Wilson settled in Beijing as US. expatriates.
In the early years, Nancy put her career on hold to raise the girls. But in 1979, with everyone in school, she returned to accounting, working for Bullocks, ADP, and later Stanford Children’s Hospital.
“She maintained a strong affinity for accounting throughout her life,” says Freda. “When I was going to college, I began in urban studies with an eye toward development and city planning, which baffled my mother. When I switched to finance, she still didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting an accounting degree.”
Profile in courage
Freda, who followed her own path to investment banking at Goldman Sachs, is awed at the courage it must have taken for a young woman from China in the early 1960s to immigrate alone, learn a new language, attend a rigorous accounting program, and establish a foothold in the US for her family.
Nancy was never short on grit or tenacity. “Her whole life was an example to us that there was nothing we couldn’t do if we put our mind to it,” reflects Freda. “From her upbringing in China in the first half of the 20th century to coming here on her own to returning to the workforce at age 50 to buying her first car by herself at age 70… she never let traditional notions—or barriers—hold her back.”
Nancy’s fearlessness fueled a passion for learning and pursuing new endeavors throughout her life. Her many interests included cooking, tai qi, gardening (sometimes late into the night), investing, Chinese calligraphy, Japanese flower arranging, knitting, and even raising silkworms. This curiosity, drive and determination inspired her daughters, who observed their mother’s many talents with an admiration that went beyond familial respect.
Now the sisters have paid forward that admiration with the endowment gift in honor of their mother, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 87. The Nancy Fulan (Liu) Wang Endowed Fund will ensure that generations to come will share in the same kinds of opportunities that the Foster School once unlocked for the remarkable mother of Linda, Melba and Freda.
Already the fund is supporting Jingqing Zhang, a student in Foster’s Master of Professional Accounting Program, in her work to become an accountant—just like her own mother back in China.