Berkeley alumnus receives award recognizing philanthropic work

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UC Berkeley’s 2019 Alumnus of the Year and esports industry pioneer Kevin Chou received an award from a Bay Area foundation recognizing him as a role model for his philanthropic efforts.

The Asian Pacific Fund, a foundation that aims to connect donor funding with underserved Asian and Pacific Islander communities, recognized blockchain and esports entrepreneur Chou with its Leadership in Philanthropy Award at its annual gala Saturday. Chou, a second-generation immigrant, has made a point of giving back to UC Berkeley after achieving success as a graduate from the Haas School of Business.

A 2017 donation of $25 million dollars from Chou and his wife, Connie Chen, was the largest single donation ever made to UC Berkeley by an alumnus under the age of 40. It enabled the construction of Connie & Kevin Chou Hall, which has received recognition as the country’s greenest academic building.

“He enabled that building which is going to serve literally generations of students in really exciting ways,” said former Haas School of Business dean and professor of finance Richard Lyons.

As a result of the new learning space, the business school has been able to incorporate dual degree pathways such as the Biology + Business Program, which allows students to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in both subjects.

Expansions like these would not have been possible without the new facility, according to Lyons, who nominated Chou for the UC Berkeley Foundation’s 2019 Alumnus of the Year Award — placing him in the company of other notable alumni including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and founder, owner and executive chef of Chez Panisse Alice Waters.

“(He) came from modest means … In fact, his family had a major financial setback right before he was supposed to start,” Lyons said.Berkeley made it financially possible for him to come, and he’s never forgotten that.”

Chou, who graduated magna cum laude from UC Berkeley in 2002, became an innovator in the gaming industry — co-founding the successful mobile gaming company Kabam and later founding the popular esports enterprise, Gen.G. Most recently, he founded Forte, a startup aimed at integrating blockchain technology and gaming economies.

The goal of the Asian Pacific Fund’s Leadership in Philanthropy Award is to recognize Asians and Pacific Islanders who have exemplified notable altruistic behavior and served as role models for their communities.

“A very important part of my identity is identifying as an Asian American … The fact that the Asia Pacific fund was established to help underserved Asian populations is a mission that I very much believe in,” Chou said in an email. “It’s a fantastic recognition that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Contact Jacob Souza at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.