only a few people would rise up to be the top researchers, he said.
“Maybe I am not as talented as I thought I was as a researcher. Maybe I am good at developing products and services to help the researchers to do discovery. I can be supportive to their innovation and discovery,” Fong said.
In late 1983, Fong decided to take a chance with Clontech. With funding of $35,000 from his younger brother Danny and the use of some laboratory space at Danny’s water analysis business, he started working on his first product in collaboration with a then- Stanford researcher, Richard Young.
In the old days, people wanted to discover genes, as they found some genes determine certain diseases, Fong said. “The first product I marketed to researchers was to help them isolate the genes,” he said. “And one successful product leads you to another one.”
In 1985, Clontech’s sales rose to $200,000 and the next year jumped to $1 million. In the following years, the company posted 48 consecutive quarters of doubledigit growth and profits.
Today, Fong nurtures the emerging biotechnology field in the Bay Area and Asia by serving on nonprofit and university boards and government-sponsored institutes.
Fong also attributed his achievements to his early years, when he learned to work hard and do not complain about it.
“My father was a cook working in the kitchen. He left me nothing in terms of money. But I thank him, because we learned to do everything ourselves to make things happen. I enjoy working and helping other people,” he said.
“That is how you derive happiness and pleasure from your life when you know the people you help become successful,” he said. “Because if they become successful, I know they will help other people.”
Fong and his wife, Pamela, both devoted philanthropists, established the Fong Optometry and Biomedical Library at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2006, and offered scholarships at San Francisco State University, Peking University and in the California State University system.
He also plans scholarships for Peking University students to obtain PhDs in finance and economics in the US.
“Because talents in the two areas
KENNETH FONG will be very important to China’s future,” he said.
Fong was a trustee of the California State University system from 2006 to 2o13, which comprises 23 campuses and more than 430,000 students.
Fong also helped select three presidents of Asian descent for California State universities in the Bay Area from 2012 to 2014. “If you want to make a difference, you need to speak out and make your voice heard,” he said.
He volunteered much of his time and resources to promoting understanding of Asian Americans. He has promised a matching fund to build a monument at Gold Run, a former settlement of early Chinese laborers in California, to recognize and commemorate those who lost their lives during the construction on the US Transcontinental Railroad 150 years ago.
The Chinese used to make great contributions to the US development by building the railroad which links the West and the East, he said. “We should remember it.”
As a member of the Committee of 100, Fong initiated and co-sponsored the “UC-China Dialogue”, a speaker series that aims to promote better understanding between the United States and China.
“I’d like the series to continue and do well, and then we will be able to eventually impact the American people to realize how important the US-China relationship is to our future,” he said.