Former Section Chair Ivan Fong Receives Spirit of Excellence Award for Stellar Contributions to Diversity

Vol. 8 No. 4

Ruth Hill Bro chairs the Section’s Membership and Diversity Committee and was the 2008–2009 Section Chair. She can be reached at ruth.bro@comcast.net.

In accepting the 2012 Spirit of Excellence Award on February 4th at the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, Ivan K. Fong recalled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observation of nearly 50 years ago that “human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability.” Instead, Ivan emphasized, progress takes hard work and long struggles, involving people from across society, making us all stronger and more resilient.

It was a fitting observation for a recipient of the Spirit of Excellence Award, whose motto is “Ad Astra per Aspera—To the Stars through Difficulty.”  The award, which was launched in 1996 by the ABA’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, recognizes a handful of lawyers each year who: excel in their professional settings; personify excellence on the national, state, or local level; and have demonstrated a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. Ivan is the second SciTech Chair to be recognized by the Commission, following in the footsteps of 2001–02 SciTech Chair Raymond L. Ocampo Jr., who received the award in 2010.

As his SciTech colleagues have repeatedly seen, Ivan excels regardless of the professional setting:

•   He is the current general counsel of the US Department of Homeland Security, where he leads more than 1,700 lawyers; advises the secretary and senior leadership on all significant legal, policy, and operational issues; and helped to establish the DHS Asian American and Pacific Islander Network (a new employee organization).

•   The National Law Journal named Ivan as one of the “20 Most Influential General Counsel,” the culmination of years of distinguishing himself at corporate powerhouses that include GE (as its first chief privacy leader and IT senior counsel, he helped lead the Asian Pacific American Forum as an employee network), GE Vendor Financial Services (as senior VP and GC), and the $91 billion global health care company Cardinal Health (as chief legal officer and secretary, he chaired its Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Council and created the Asian Pacific American Network, helping Cardinal win awards for its diversity efforts).

•   He won clerkships with legal giants like Abner Mikva and Sandra Day O’Connor and earned degrees from Oxford (a Fulbright Scholar, graduating with a bachelor of civil law degree with first-class honors), MIT (master’s in chemical engineering), and Stanford (J.D. with distinction and president of Stanford Law Review).

•   He has also been a partner at Covington & Burling in Washington, DC, where he served on the firm’s Diversity Committee and as vice-chair of its Public Service Committee; Deputy Associate Attorney General of the United States; adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center; chair of the Association of Corporate Counsel; a Stanford University trustee; and a member of various national and community-based nonprofit boards.

Ivan has been honored with the Trailblazer Award of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (he’s a former board member), the Justice in Action Award of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Pioneer Award of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington, DC Area (he’s a former president). He is a member of President Obama’s Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

While serving as the 2004-2005 SciTech Section Chair, Ivan spearheaded the drafting, adoption, and rollout of the Section’s first diversity plan, which became a core component of growing SciTech’s membership and stands as one of his most important contributions to the Section. Thanks to Ivan’s leadership, SciTech was one of the earliest ABA entities to adopt a formal diversity plan. Penned by Ivan with his characteristic precision and insight, the plan recognized that diversity was not just a worthy goal but also one that required implementation and reporting. (The plan, updated in February 2010, appears at www2.americanbar.org/sections/
scitech/Pages/diversityplan.aspx.) A fan of informal mentoring, Ivan also took time as a SciTech leader to mentor countless Section members.

A napkin-waving contingent of more than 20 SciTech leaders cheered as Ivan rose to accept his Spirit of Excellence of Award. Many of his remarks stressed that America is a nation of immigrants who came before and after us in search of a better life, and this diversity “makes us stronger, better, and more innovative.” Ever one to acknowledge those who have helped him, Ivan warmly thanked John Yang (who introduced Ivan at the luncheon), NAPABA, the ABA and the Commission, his family (including his parents and wife’s family, who came to the United States as immigrants), and SciTech, which Ivan called his home in the ABA. Ivan said he could not thank his SciTech colleagues enough for their friendship, support, and dedication to improving the profession.

By his tireless efforts and persistent work, Ivan inspires so many of us in SciTech to aim higher when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession . . . because progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability.

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