Loudoun Sculpture Symbolizes NOVA Helping Students Take Flight

Loudoun Sculpture Symbolizes NOVA Helping Students Take Flight

Loudoun Sculpture Symbolizes NOVA Helping Students Take Flight
Dr. Bev Blois, Dr. Sung Nguyen, NOVA student An Huyen, the artist’s daughter and NOVA student Thu Nguyen, Huyen’s cousin.
Photo by Kathy Thompson

There is a beautiful sculpture at NOVA’s Loudoun Campus by Vietnamese artisan Vinh Do. It was donated by NOVA Alumnus Sung Nguyen.

Born in Vietnam in 1969, Nguyen’s grandmother took him to visit family several hours from Saigon. While they were away, Viet Cong took Saigon. His family was evacuated to the United States, but Nguyen and his grandmother were left behind.

Over the course of the next 18 years, the two attempted to escape 22 times and were even jailed. In 1986, Nguyen told his grandmother it was too dangerous and they must stop.

Loudoun Sculpture Symbolizes NOVA Helping Students Take Flight
Beneath the crane, a symbol of education and advancement, glass reflects the American flag, a symbol of freedom.
Photo by Kathy Thompson

In 1989, Nguyen’s uncle was able to arrange their passage to America. The two landed in New York August 16, 1991, and reunited with family in Loudoun County.

Within days, Nguyen’s mother took him to NOVA’s Loudoun Campus and told him to pick something to study. He met Registrar Gert Heslin who helped him with registration, and he began his studies on August 24, 1991 taking ESL-013 with Professor Yitna Firdyiwek.

Loudoun Sculpture Symbolizes NOVA Helping Students Take Flight
The sculpture was given in gratitude to NOVA and in memory of dear friend and colleague Robert Walnetski, office manager for the Loudoun Campus Humanities Division, who passed away in 1998.
Photo by Kathy Thompson

“Firdyiwek was motivated by technology,” Nguyen said. “He connected six or seven Macs and taught students to collaborate in real-time. It was so amazing and motivating to me.”

“I loved computers. Coming to America, there were computers everywhere! It was like the land of promise for me,” he said. “I worked at Roy Rogers until I had money to buy my own.”

In the spring of 1992, he began as a work study for Dr. Bev Blois where he helped maintain the department’s computers. Nguyen says that Blois and his wife embraced him as if he were their own son, even after he moved.

“I transferred to Florida for school and other places for work, but they would always send me Christmas cards,” Nguyen said. “I finally realized he was very sincere in his kindness to me.”

Nguyen’s brother-in-law Vinh Do, an artist in Vietnam, sent photos of his work. This sparked an idea for Nguyen. He went to his mentor, Blois, and said he wanted to give back to NOVA by donating a sculpture to the Loudoun Campus.

He flew the sculpture – and the artist – to America, and Vinh Do assembled the work himself. Blois even arranged an artist’s master class.

The sculpture resembles a crane taking flight. In Vietnam, the crane is a symbol of advancement, appropriate given the benefactor’s history and the venue. If you stand in just the right position and look straight down on the glass beneath, you will see the American Flag waving in the breeze.

After NOVA, Nguyen received a B.S. from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, an M.S from University of St. Thomas (Minneapolis) and a Doctor of Systems Engineering from the George Washington University. He is now a technologist for Google Cloud. He is married and has two sons.

Also, the next generation has begun at NOVA. Nguyen’s niece, the daughter of Vinh Do, An Huyen and her cousin Thu Nguyen started at the Loudoun Campus last spring with sights set on careers in health care.

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