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Kien Lao establishes CCCC scholarship in honor of his sister

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Click to enlarge,  Stephen Brown (center) is the first recipient of the Dong Bich Lao Laser Program Scholarship at Central Carolina Community College. Brown is pictured here with Kien Lao (left), who established the Dong Bich Lao Laser Program Scholarship in honor of his sister, and Gary Beasley (right), Lead Instructor for the Laser and Photonics Program at Central Carolina Community College.

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Stephen Brown (center) is the first recipient of the Dong Bich Lao Laser Program Scholarship at Central ... (more)

05.07.2019College & CommunityCollege General

LILLINGTON - Between bombings and being poor, times were hard for Kien Lao when he was growing up in Cho Lon, a China town outside Saigon in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. In fact, during the war, even his school was destroyed.

Around 1955, Kien's family ran into a very difficult financial situation, Kien's oldest sister, Dong Bich Lao, had to drop out of school right after her elementary school graduation to work supporting the family. As the result of her sacrifice, her siblings, including Kien, could continue their education. This unselfish and loving contribution enabled Kien to continue studying and excelling in school, eventually allowing him the opportunity to continue his education abroad in the United States.

While studying in the U.S., Kien earned both a Bachelor's and a Master's in Electrical Engineering. This education, along with hard work, opened doors for a rewarding career in both industry and entrepreneurship for him. Kien eventually worked his way up to Vice President of Engineering for Ericsson US Mobile Phones R&D and then decided to start his first company, which successfully grew to several international company start-ups.

Now, Kien is in the process of retiring and looking for opportunities to give back. Fortunately, while working at Ericsson, Gary Beasley, Lead Instructor for the Laser and Photonics Program at Central Carolina Community College, had the opportunity to work with Kien. Through their time at Ericsson, the two became very close friends, working and traveling on projects together.

After reconnecting years later, Gary reached out to Kien to join the Laser program advisory committee. This committee helps mentor students and lead continued improvement of the Laser program at CCCC to ensure that the program is preparing students for a successful career. "Kien Lao joining the Laser program advisory committee has been a blessing to our program," said Beasley. "His wisdom and experience in industry, engineering, management has been invaluable in mentoring, and advising our students."

After spending time helping out on the advisory committee, Kien decided he wanted to do more. He remembered how someone helped him financially when he was a struggling college student, so he decided to set up a special scholarship fund with the CCCC Foundation for the Laser program. Dr. Emily Hare, Executive Director of the CCCC Foundation, helped Kien set up the fund. The scholarship provides up to $2,000 a year for a well deserving student.

But, remembering who sacrificed her education to provide for the family, as he continued his education, Kien wanted the scholarship named after his oldest sister, the "Dong Bich Lao Laser Program Scholarship."

"At times, very good students, who we definitely don't want to lose, come by the office to tell me they are going to have to quit the program in order to work extra to support their family," said Beasley. "When this happens, we search for funds, but if none are available, sometimes we lose the opportunity to change a life, which hurts, especially when you see such talent wasted. Now, with Kien's gift, we will be able to continue helping students change their lives."

The first recipient of the Dong Bich Lao Laser Program Scholarship is Stephen Brown.

Dr. Emily Hare, CCCC Foundation Executive Director, said the college is grateful for the support of the Dong Bich Lao Laser Program Scholarship. "This scholarship will provide support that changes lives and, in turn, impact our communities," says Hare. "We cannot say thank you enough to Kien Lao for his commitment to the college."

The CCCC Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization affiliated with, but independent of, the college. It receives donations of money and equipment on behalf of CCCC and uses them to promote the educational mission of the college and assist students through scholarships and grants.

For information on giving to the Foundation, contact Dr. Emily Hare, Executive Director of the CCCC Foundation, at 919-718-7230 or by email at

To learn more about Central Carolina Community College, visit