Vernon and Yun Soong Jim were respected leaders in their community, world travelers, and longtime supporters of Lyon Arboretum. Their daughters, Arlene Chang, Velma Jim and Gwendolyn Wong agree that this Endowment represents their Mom and Dad’s values and respect for the work of Lyon Arboretum.
Yun Soong grew up on Hawai‘i Island and taught high school science at McKinley High School and other O‘ahu schools, and often brought her students on field trips to Mānoa Falls, ‘Aiea Loop Trail and Lyon Arboretum so they could experience in person the subjects they learned about in the classroom.
Vernon grew up on Maui and was a physician specializing in plastic surgery and eye surgery. He was a captain in the U.S. Army, where he was a flight surgeon. When overseas doctors relocated to Hawai‘i, he helped them receive their medical certifications here, and for years he organized and coordinated volunteers for Lyon’s plant sales.
“They were both overachievers!” says Velma. “Both were recognized in local organizations and in the Chinese community.” Among their numerous honors, Vernon was Emeritus Director of the United Chinese Society and the United Chinese Society’s Chinese Citizen of the year and Model Father of the Year. Yun Soong was named Chinese Model Mother of the Year and was the first woman to be Chinese Citizen of the Year.
They met as graduate students at the University of Chicago, while Vernon earned his MD and Yun Soong earned a master’s degree in botany.
Over the years, they prepared hundreds of cases of jams and jellies for sale in the Lyon store, and often cooked chili, gon lo mein and other delicious goodies for volunteers at plant sales and other events. Often, these volunteers included high schoolers Yun Soong had introduced to the arboretum on excursions.
“Everywhere they went, they built friendships,” says Arlene. Ray Baker, a 38-year Lyon employee, was among these close friends.
“Ray was appreciative of their efforts, and they respected him and his work. As with any place, if you have a welcoming, supportive environment and a feeling of appreciation, you stick around.”
As a tribute to these lifelong community servants and their dedication to Lyon Arboretum, their family foundation has established the Vernon and Yun Soong Jim Micropropagation Endowment to support Lyon’s micropropagation lab into the distant future.
Gwen says, “They were always asking us to be curious, to reach out and to work hard. I think they would like to see this fund advance the research, refine practices and discoveries and lead to a stronger future.
“How do you create a better environment from a plant life point of view unless you have the resources for study, experiments, research and testing to make it possible? Hopefully this endowment allows it to happen. I think Mom and Dad will look down on these efforts and say, ‘Yeah, this is a good one!’”