Chinese Immigrant Gives Back as Community Leader, Business Owner, and Non-Profit Co-Founder

Ken M. Tse, AIA, President, KMT Architects

It was during the Great Recession, with work slow, that a colleague of Ken Tse’s invited him on a mission trip to Cuba, where they provided donations and encouragement to those in need. 

“Even though the country was in turmoil, full of poverty, and they didn’t have much,” he said. “I saw the light in those individuals, the faith. They were just full of joy.” 

The experience launched Ken on a journey of giving that continues today. And, he believes, it has fulfilled a desire he has always harbored as an immigrant—to repay others for his own good fortune in America. 

Ken was 10 years old when he arrived in the United States. His parents had fled mainland China during the Cultural Revolution, landing first in Hong Kong before securing a visa to join Ken’s sister’s family in a small town in the Mississippi Delta. His parents put in long hours as shopkeepers. 

“Like all immigrants, I learned the work ethic through my parents. For them, it’s hope, it’s opportunity, it’s sacrifice after sacrifice,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t want to mess it up. They fought every step of the way so we could have a better future.” 

So Ken followed the script and “always worked.” He earned a Bachelor of Architecture from Mississippi State University and took a job in Dallas designing high rises. Then came the recession, time, and a trip to Cuba. 

“That changed my outlook on life,” he said. “Before, the priority was work, work, work. But life is more than that.” 

Ken opened his own firm, KMT Architects, and in the same year, 2010, cofounded New Hope Compassion, a nonprofit that works with local and international partners to bring needed humanitarian supplies and programs—and hope—to people in need. 

Locally, he helps the underserved, school children, and young professionals with supplies and mentorship. Internationally, his current primary focus is on helping orphans—providing clothes, toiletries, backpacks, and more, and providing English language classes remotely. 

He also serves as president of the Dallas-based Asian American Contractors and Professionals Association, which offers networking, education, and mentorship opportunities to professionals from all backgrounds. 

“I think all three [positions] apply the same principles. I leverage people and partners,” he said. “Whomever you encounter, I believe that they can make a difference. 

“As I’m reflecting back on my life as an immigrant, I know we’re grateful for everything we’ve got. But also it’s our obligation to give back, to serve our community, not just here locally but also globally.” 

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