'Classical act' honors new mayor
by Meri R. Kennedy
Mayor Allan Fung poses for a photo with his parents – Tan Ping Fung and Kwong Wen Fung – along with his sisters Arlene Fung and Anna Fung Pauciera, who were on hand as he received the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award last week from Classical High School.

Mayor Allan Fung’s former classmates from Classical High School agree: if Fung was to be tagged with a high school superlative it would be “greatest smile.” Last week he was indeed all smiles as he received the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award from his former high school.

Fung was honored by the Classical Alumni Association along with Vincent Sarni (’45), Dr. Ronald DeLellis (’58), Rabbi Avis Dimond Miller (’62), Richard Bornstein (’67) and Lauren Corrao (’79).

As a member of the graduating class of 1988, Fung was popular in high school. Former classmates recall him most during mock trial classes where he was already a budding attorney; others recall that when they were going out on dates, Fung “encouraged” them all to take their dates to dinner at his parents’ restaurant, Kong Wen, which was originally located on Cranston Street and then moved to Gansett Avenue.

He was also known in high school for his smile.

The day of the award ceremony, Fung returned to Classical High School to speak with students.

“I recall being in the same auditorium years ago and hearing the same speech, which was ‘look to your left, look to your right and one of those students will not be here to graduate,’” said Fung. “It brought back vivid memories being back at the school.”

Out of 400 students in Fung’s class, only 200 graduated with the class.

As the night went on, Fung was busy catching up with former classmates and memories of the days in high school. Pats on the back, handshakes and hugs from former classmates brought Fung back to the “good old days” of high school.

“Classical provided me with a great education and foundation in life,” said Fung. “My interest in becoming a lawyer was sparked by the mock trial classes.”

His advice to graduating seniors is, “although we are going through difficult times, never forget the experiences you are going through now. Those experiences will shape and build your character later in life.”

Elected in 2008, Fung became the first Asian-American Mayor in Rhode Island. Prior to that, between 2003 and 2007 he served as a citywide councilman and worked collaboratively to improve Cranston’s bond rating, which was at junk bond status at the time.

Fung was also the council’s representative to the City’s Diversity Advisory Commission and sat on several City Council committees including Ordinance and Safety Services.

Prior being elected to the council and as mayor, Fung served from 2001 to 2009 as the government relations counsel for MetLife, where his primary responsibility was the oversight of the legislative and regulatory affairs nationwide for MetLife Auto & Home. From 1999 to 2001, Fung served as a special assistant attorney general in the Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office. Prior to that, Fung was a litigation associate with the firm of Mandell, Schwartz & Boisclair.

Fung received a B.A. from Rhode Island College in 1992 and a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School in 1995. In addition, he completed the Leadership Rhode Island program in 2001.

Along with his other achievements, Fung was chairman of the Rhode Island Governor’s Insurance Council from 2005 to 2008 and is the current chairman of the Board of the Rhode Island Association of Chinese Americans. He also serves on the board of the Rhode Island College Alumni Association and is a member of the Thurgood Marshall Law Society.

In 2006, Fung was named by the National Journal as a future star in politics in Rhode Island. He has also been named twice to Providence Business News’ list of “40 Under Forty.”

The Alumni Award Dinner, apart from being what Fung termed “a mix of award ceremony and reunion,” was also a fundraiser to help restore the music program at Classical, which was cut in 2006 due to budget problems. The association announced that evening that enough money was raised to bring back music next year.

“I encourage everyone,” said Fung, “to effect change for the future.”

© 2009