Donor Profile: Kenny and Maria Chin

Author: University Development
April 19, 2024
Kenny & Maria Chin

Providing opportunities through investing in education
In 2022, Kenny Chin (M.A. ’78, Political Science) and his wife Maria Chin generously gave to the College of Liberal & Creative Arts to establish two scholarships, one for undergrad/grad students in International Relations and the other in Philosophy. They also funded the Chin-Plaisance Colloquium Series at SF State, which featured Angela Davis as a speaker last year. Kenny and Maria are both first-generation Americans who come from modest means and are happy to find themselves in a position to give at this point in their lives.

Kenny Chin: From Renegade Radical to a Ph.D.
In the 1960s, Kenny Chin was involved with the counterculture movement and generally more interested in having fun than studying in college. He squeaked by graduating from the University of Houston in 1971, and was later unfortunately rejected by graduate schools in Texas. After leaving college, he was a self-described “renegade radical” and worked odd jobs to better understand the travails of the working class. Eventually, Kenny got a job as a train porter, which allowed him to extensively travel around the U.S. This exposed him to the diversity and politics of the country, which eventually made him want to continue his studies in political philosophy. Fortunately, a second chance for graduate school happened at SF State.

At SF State, Kenny met Dr. Wayne Bradley, who told Kenny that he would allow him into the graduate political science program if he was able to score well on the Miller Analogies Test, an admissions test that many graduate schools used at the time. Kenny studied for the exam for an entire year, got a good score, and has remained grateful to Dr. Bradley and SF State for giving him a second chance in life. He received his M.A. in Political Science from SF State in 1978—learning much from Dr. Matthew Stolz and Dr. Gerard Heather—and a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Berkeley in 1986, majoring in China’s “Open Door to Foreign Investments.”

Maria Chin: Guided by a Catholic ethic of mercy and love
Like Kenny, Maria’s parents immigrated from China. Her parents landed in Lima, Peru, where she grew up. She and Kenny met at a party in San Francisco while she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business and marketing at the University of San Francisco. Maria was and is a devout Catholic, and the two were not an immediate match because of Kenny’s radical beliefs. However, they soon came to care for one another, and Kenny realized that Maria’s values and cultural roots provided a deeper connection than politics for him.

Kenny went into business around the time that he met Maria, finding success in the import/export trade with China. Maria, now retired, worked in the accounting department of Bechtel for 38 years, and the couple has two grown sons.

“Forget injuries; never forget kindness.” –Confucius
Kenny had always envisioned running for politics once he got older and retired, but, when the time came, he decided to invest in education instead. “I believe the best path forward for me is to help young people, to open curious minds,” says Kenny. Guided by their shared values of compassion and love, Kenny and Maria began to look for opportunities to give back to the community and share the result of successful investments that they had made over the years.

In keeping with Confucius’ teachings which Kenny adheres to, and grateful for the opportunity that SF State had given him in the past, the couple decided to fund the Chin-Plaisance Colloquium Series; the Benny & May Chin Scholarship in International Relations; and the Benny & May Chin Scholarship in Philosophy (named after Kenny’s parents) at SF State in 2022. Maria and Kenny understand that the need for scholarships amongst SF State students, many of whom work in addition to pursuing their education, can be great, which inspired their choice.

“There's a lot of kids that go to SF State—they work while they are trying to get ahead by getting a degree. At the same time, they often try to provide for and help their families,” says Maria. “So, I think that SF State students may need more than [students] at other universities. I hope that this will help somebody to open up the world to become more peaceful.”

Kenny, who aspires to fund projects that improve relations between the U.S. and China in the future, shares Maria’s sentiments: “I'd be really happy if one day some of our giving makes an impact and helps some students or professors to become very successful and have a positive impact on the world. That's my hope.”

For more information about donating to the College of Liberal and Creative Arts, contact 
Bonnie Feinberg at