John and Mary Tu Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The John and Mary Tu Foundation does most of its grantmaking in the Los Angeles area, where the family lives and works. Education and the arts are priorities. The foundation has no website but accepts applications.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Arts

IP TAKE: Tu has been the primary benefactor of Freedom Writers, an inner-city youth program in Los Angeles. Lately, the young John and Mary Tu Foundation appears to be upping its grantmaking.

PROFILE: John Tu is the co-founder of Kingston Technology, a leading computer memory products manufacturer in Fountain Valley, California. Tu was born in China and raised in Taiwan. Tu came to the states in the early 1970s. On Black Monday in 1987, when the stock market collapsed, Tu and his business partner David Sun lost their fortunes and were forced to return to square one. Using their expertise, the engineers developed a technology that allows customers to increase the memory storage capacity of their PC, and launched Kingston Technology, headquartered in Fountain Valley, California. Tu is now worth an estimated $5.3 billion. 

Tu and his wife Mary live in Rolling Hills, an affluent neighborhood on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in southwestern Los Angeles County. It's no surprise then that the couple's philanthropy focuses on Los Angeles. Thus far, the headlining aspect of Tu philanthropy has been the relationship with Freedom Writers, an educational program for students from low-income communities. Tu has been the primary benefactor of the Freedom Writers Program and the Freedom Writers Foundation from its inception in Long Beach, California, in 1997.

The overall mission of Freedom Writers is to improve the academic outlook for students in underserved communities by creating challenging curricula. The foundation also awards scholarships to first-generation high school graduates, which is certainly in line with Tu's own experiences as an immigrant to this country. If Freedom Writers sounds familiar, it's because the program's accomplishments were significant enough to warrant a movie starring Hilary Swank. On at least one occasion, Tu has donated computers to a Freedom Writers class.

On the subject of technology donations, Tu is also known for having donated $1.2 million to the University of California, Irvine, so that every incoming medical school student would receive an iPad. The so-called iMedEd Initiative at UC Irvine was first launched in 2010 and is supported by the John and Mary Tu Scholarship Fund. 

The John and Mary Tu Foundation appears to be upping its grantmaking. In one recent year, $140,000 went out the door to only a few outfits. In the next year, however, the foundation made nearly $2.3 million in grants to a dozen or so outfits. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Education Foundation, which supports the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, received $25,000 and $50,000 in past years. $500,000 also recently went to Chapman University, and the UC Irvine Foundation received more than $400,000. Modest sums have also gone to the Fountain Valley location of the nonprofit Go and Do Likewise, which works on community building and education in Kenya. 

At the end of a recent year, the funder reported nearly $17 million in assets and almost $2 million in total giving.

The Tus also appear to have an interest in the arts. Tu himself is an avid drummer, playing in his band JT and California Dreamin'. His company Kingston is named after his favorite band from the 1960s. Nearly $370,000 went to Pacific Symphony in 2012. Los Angeles Ballet, Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, and South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa have also been supported. The couple has also supported local public television by giving to the KOCE-TV Foundation.

Billionaire Tu is in his 70s and is still involved with business, but should be watched, with Los Angeles likely being the primary beneficiary of the couple's philanthropy. While the foundation doesn't have a website, applications can be directed to Tu's CFO, Albert Kong. 

PEOPLE:

  • John Tu, President
  • Albert Kong, CFO
  • Mary Tu, Secretary

CONTACT:

Application address:
c/o Albert Kong, 17600 Newhope St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708