By Ruth Gerson
This highly engaging and approachable lady tells of the circuitous route that has taken her from Taiwan at the young age of 12 to study in the United States, and later to Thailand to work in her family’s business. Linda’s father had owned a business in Taiwan manufacturing Christmas lights and moved its base to Thailand, establishing a factory in Bang Na. In 1989, following graduation from UCLA in Los Angeles, Linda joined her family business in Thailand while pursuing an MBA degree at the newly opened and prestigious SASIN business school at Chulalongkorn University. “It was my father’s way of keeping me here,” she says. And indeed he succeeded, as it was in Bangkok that Linda met her husband and put down roots in the City of Angels.
Linda’s husband’s story runs parallel to hers. Also of Taiwanese origin, his parents invested in ceramic tile manufacturing in Thailand. While Linda had studied on west coast USA her husband finished his studies in New York and was already employed there when he was summoned to return to Asia to his family’s business. The two met in Bangkok and married in 1994. Linda continued to work in the family’s business in marketing and sales with the US as a major market, while her husband’s ceramic tile business took them to Europe, mostly to Italy and Spain from where the tile-manufacturing machines were imported.
In the community, Linda had served as president of the Rotary Club of Bangkok in 2007, only the third woman to hold this position, which at the time was in its 77th year. This afforded her to expand her social managerial skills, and coupled with her keen business acumen she became a desirable target for business recruiters. The opportunity for change arose in 2012 when a friend asked Linda to help at the Mahidol University’s College of Music. Linda consented, remembering an inspirational talk by a guest speaker from a Rotary meeting who had said that one should do what he or she is passionate about. The offer came at a time when Linda was rethinking her life, feeling that she wanted do more than run a business, saying, “Family work was a duty, music was my passion.”
Linda met the dean of the College of Music and the board of directors who created the position of Associate Dean for Marketing and Communications for her, recognizing Linda’s art of persuasion linked with her passion for music. With a tight budget and great ideas by the administrators that had to be carry out, Linda says with a smile, “I was the messenger to deliver their wishes.” To be able to operate effectively, Linda used various means to promote the music college such as bartering concert tickets, finding sponsors and working in partnership with embassies and cultural institutions. She found this work rewarding being able to engage the community while promoting music appreciation and education. The threefold growth of the audience attending performances at Mahidol attests Linda’s success in her three and a half years of work there.
To raise the place’s profile, Linda searched for international art, and what country was better to start with than her old home – Taiwan. She arranged to bring from the National Palace Museum in Taipei the multimedia exhibition of the renowned painted scroll ‘Up the river during Qing Ming’ of which many versions exist. The exhibition was an immediate success. Linda related the difficulty she had faced in convincing the museum directors to work with a small art centre. However, perseverance and the art of persuasion prevailed with Linda quoting enthusiastically Benjamin Franklin’s words of wisdom, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” which she repeats to her team. More multimedia exhibitions have followed, the recent “From Monet to Kandinsky” from Berlin, and the current “Italian Renaissance” have all received great attendance.
The transformation of River City is evident whilst walking down its halls. There are new galleries and numerous eatery places, the passageways are abuzz with people, and Linda has added her personal touch meeting visitors, introducing herself and welcomes them. Linda feels that this is the right time to highlight River City as it is located in the old European quarter of Bangkok that is now a heritage site being developed as an art enclave, and that River City has to evolve in order to remain relevant.
Fruits of Linda’s work are seen in the various activities of River City. There are now monthly concerts of various genre, screenings of special movies, art exhibitions some with artist’s talks, and more. The place has garnered a reputation that draws artists to its midst. Linda’s dream is to help transform River City to become an art hub in Thailand and perhaps in Asia.