David K. Woo ’67 credits his parents with knowing that UC Berkeley was the perfect place for his higher education. Now a successful architect, businessman and developer in Hong Kong, and director of the Hong Kong-based Woo Hon Fai Holdings, Woo made an impact at Cal even in his early years.
Newly arrived as a freshman at Berkeley in 1962, Woo’s introduction to American culture was swift, but he quickly adapted. While an architecture student, Woo became the senior manager of the Cal baseball team, traveling with the likes of soon-to-be major leaguers Andy Messersmith, Bill Nye and Bill Frost.
Upon his graduation in 1967 as a member of one of the first classes to graduate from Wurster Hall and the College of Environmental Design, Woo was immediately hired as resident architect for Rothschild & Riffin, the contractors of the University Art Museum, later re-named the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
“I am proud to have been part of the building team for the University Art Museum,” says Woo. “It was a fantastic job for a greenhorn like me… my work really taught me how to build, though it was hard and dusty work.”
The award-winning structure designed by Mario Ciampi has since become a cultural hub in the Bay Area, showcasing the world’s finest art and film for hundreds of thousands of people.
When Mr. Woo left California to make his mark in the world of global business and commerce in Hong Kong, he continued to give back to Berkeley by serving on the BAM/PFA board.
Now CED is honored that Woo has chosen to bestow a gift of $1 million to endow a faculty chair in the College of Environmental Design. This gift is being matched with $1 million by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as part of the Hewlett Challenge for Faculty Support. The David K. Woo Chair in the College of Environmental Design will support the work of an eminent faculty member in CED.
CED Dean Jennifer Wolch praised Woo’s philanthropy by saying, “We are extraordinarily grateful to David Woo for creating The David K. Woo Chair in the College of Environmental Design. This generous gift of faculty support is extremely important to CED and will benefit students and faculty for many generations to come.”
The $1 million gift to CED is part of a major gift of $15 million given by Woo to UC Berkeley to honor his late father, Woo Hon Fai. The Berkeley Art Museum building has been renamed Woo Hon Fai Hall, to pay homage to Mr. Woo’s father and to celebrate this historic building.
The elder Mr. Woo, OBE, was the founding chairman of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the president of the Gold and Silver Exchange Society of Hong Kong, the deputy Chairman of the Hong Kong Commodity Exchange, and the Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong Real Estate Association during his storied career. Queen Elizabeth made him a commander of the Order of the British Empire before his passing more than 30 years ago.
Woo, who is married and has two grown children, acknowledged his father’s influence by explaining, “In my life I was guided tremendously by the example of my father, whose hard work and contributions were crucial toward building the Hong Kong that we cherish today. By enshrining his memory, it is my hope that future generations of students, faculty, and campus visitors will learn a little bit more about him and his legacy.”