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Ann Arbor 200

AAPI Washtenaw Oral History Project - Cynthia Yao

When: June 3, 2021

Photo of a Chinese American woman with gray hair and glassesCynthia Yao was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where her parents settled after immigrating from China. In 1959, she moved to Boston to attend Emmanuel College. She met Edward York-Peng Yao who was at Harvard finishing his PhD in Physics. They married and came to Ann Arbor where they raised four children: Michelle, Mark, Steven and Lisa. She received a Master of Museum Practice from the University of Michigan in 1979. She was inspired by science centers and children's museums that she visited with her children. Yao proposed to the city a museum in the former firehouse building and worked with many community members to create the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum which opened on October 13, 1982. She served as Executive Director for 18 years. 

Note: Cynthia and Ed’s eldest daughter Michelle passed away in 2022, after the recording of this interview. All four of their children have successful careers–three became doctors, and one became an engineer.

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Transcript

  • [00:00:12] HEIDI MORSE: Today is June 3rd, 2021. I'm Heidi Morse, an archivist at the Ann Arbor District Library. I'm speaking with Cynthia Yao. Could I have you please say and spell your name?
  • [00:00:27] CYNTHIA YAO: Cynthia Yao; C-Y-N-T-H-I-A Y-A-O.
  • [00:00:36] HEIDI MORSE: What were your parents or guardians' names?
  • [00:00:40] CYNTHIA YAO: Names? They're Chinese and my father had a Chinese name, of course, Chin Hock Henn, and my mom was Yap Bik Yun.
  • [00:00:56] HEIDI MORSE: What year were you born?
  • [00:00:58] CYNTHIA YAO: I was born in 1940, the last day of the year, December 31st. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:01:08] HEIDI MORSE: How would you describe your ethnic background?
  • [00:01:12] CYNTHIA YAO: I'm Chinese. My parents are both Chinese from the southern part of China. I was born in, maybe people would think it's an unusual place, but I was born in Kingston, Jamaica. I grew up there.
  • [00:01:41] HEIDI MORSE: What is your religion, if any?
  • [00:01:46] CYNTHIA YAO: I'm a lapsed Catholic.
  • [00:01:51] HEIDI MORSE: These are just brief questions for now to get familiar with who you are, quick details. What's the highest level of education that you've completed?
  • [00:02:08] CYNTHIA YAO: Master's degree. I have a Master of Museum Practice from the University of Michigan in museum studies.
  • [00:02:22] HEIDI MORSE: What's your marital status?
  • [00:02:24] CYNTHIA YAO: I'm married... For a long time to [York-Peng] Ed Yao. He's a professor--or he was, he's retired now--professor of physics in the physics department at the University of Michigan.
  • [00:02:40] HEIDI MORSE: Do you have children?
  • [00:02:42] CYNTHIA YAO: We have four children: Michelle, Mark, Steven, and Lisa; two girls and two boys.
  • [00:02:57] HEIDI MORSE: What about siblings? Do you have any siblings?
  • [00:02:59] CYNTHIA YAO: I have a lot of siblings. There are four girls, including myself, and two boys in the family [Lily, Shirley, Clifton, Daphne, and Milton].
  • [00:03:11] HEIDI MORSE: What was your main occupation?
  • [00:03:16] CYNTHIA YAO: My main occupation in life?
  • [00:03:20] HEIDI MORSE: Yeah, career path.
  • [00:03:23] CYNTHIA YAO: When I first came to Ann Arbor, I brought Michelle with us, she was just a few months old. Then I had three other kids in Ann Arbor. My initial career path was really being at home with the kids. As far as my career path, when we first got married, my husband was doing his postdoc-ship in Princeton, not at the university but at the Institute for theoretical physics [Institute for Advanced Study]. We got married there, and I got into NYU's Institute of Fine Arts, which is a graduate program for museums. I commuted from Princeton and started my career then, but things came to a stop after I had the kids and we came to Ann Arbor and settled in. But quite a few years later when Michelle was about 12, I decided to go back to school here at U of M, and entered the master's program that was here. I guess that started my career in a sense.
  • [00:04:47] HEIDI MORSE: Are you retired now?
  • [00:04:49] CYNTHIA YAO: I am retired now.
  • [00:04:57] HEIDI MORSE: I'd like to circle back to speaking about your childhood and youth. Even if these questions jog memories about other parts of your life, please try to keep it to memories about your childhood for now. You said you were born in Kingston, Jamaica. What was your family like when you were a child?
  • [00:05:19] CYNTHIA YAO: One of my earliest memories, and I guess I was just starting school around the same time, was living in Jamaica, which so beautiful. But among mango trees, I don't know if you're familiar with that. As kids, there were five or six mango trees in the house that we lived in, and as kids, we spent a lot of time climbing on them, eating them. [LAUGHTER] We had a very wonderful next door neighbor that was my best friend [Rosie Lee]. That's my one of the fondest memories I have of my childhood. But then when I started going to school, I went to a Catholic school called Convent of Mercy Alpha Academy, which was run by the Sisters of Mercy. It started with kindergarten, before kindergarten and actually all the way through high school and beyond. I stayed at that school for the whole time until I came to the US to go to college.
  • [00:06:32] HEIDI MORSE: What values shaped the community around you when you were growing up? This could be political, religious, social values.
  • [00:06:41] CYNTHIA YAO: Well, as a child growing up, I was unconscious or not aware of politics and so on. My parents ran a business and as kids, we helped them after school. The fact that we were a very small minority in Jamaica, all my friends were Jamaicans--Black, different colors. I didn't pay attention to the politics really. I know that after I came to the US to go to college, Jamaica became independent. But again, as a child I just wasn't interested, and wasn't aware of it, of what was going on. I know also just some knowledge that at one point Jamaica had very close ties to Cuba and Fidel Castro. But again, as a child, it's not in my memory of anything happening that we know of.
  • [00:07:55] HEIDI MORSE: You mentioned that your parents ran a business. What type of business was that, and do you remember the name?
  • [00:08:00] CYNTHIA YAO: Yes. It was called the Diamond Bakery. It was a bakery but my parents weren't bakers because they just bought it as a business. But my mom, who is very entrepreneurial and she loved cooking and baking, she just got into it. She really was the center of making some of our products. The best in the country. [LAUGHTER] It's a small island, so at some point when we developed, we delivered items around the country. Anyway, what I remember most of all of the bakery was at Easter time. I think that Jamaica was British originally and Easter buns was a big deal. We had to go through a process of making some of the items that goes in the bun. [LAUGHTER] That's a whole other story so I won't get into that, but very memorable. The other aspect of my childhood, and you could say it's cultural or whatever, is not just eating Chinese food, but also eating Jamaican food, which is fabulous. [LAUGHTER] Those are some of my wonderful memories of growing up in Jamaica, and developing such good friends that I still keep in touch even today.
  • [00:09:34] HEIDI MORSE: That's great, to have lifelong friends like that.
  • [00:09:38] CYNTHIA YAO: Yes.
  • [00:09:41] HEIDI MORSE: What other foods do you remember? Did you have any favorites of Jamaican food, Chinese food?
  • [00:09:51] CYNTHIA YAO: How should I explain this? My parents are Hakka, H-A-K-K-A. One could look it up. We're Chinese, but it's a special, I wouldn't say ethnic minority, but it's a minority that have Hakka cuisine. It's quite different from Cantonese cooking or northern Chinese cooking. My mom brought that to us very early. The other aspect of cooking and eating food is really we had cooks that helped us. My mom would turn it over to them and they would cook Jamaican food for us. I would stay by the kitchen and help her [Estelle] to make dumplings and what have you. [LAUGHTER] We'd end up eating two kinds of food mostly, and really enjoy it very much. I know that Jamaican food is very popular now in this country, but some of it has become, I don't want to say Americanized, but has become so popular that there are Jamaican places all over the country, all over the world in fact.
  • [00:11:23] HEIDI MORSE: Were there other holidays besides Easter that your family celebrated?
  • [00:11:28] CYNTHIA YAO: We did everything. My mom believed in celebrations! [LAUGHTER] She picked up whatever holiday there was. She would celebrate it. The Chinese holidays, the Western holidays, Christmas, Easter, the British holidays. We did them all. I remember as a child for the Chinese holidays we would decorate the whole living room with, I don't know how to describe it. We had to make them originally some out of paper. Not really chains, but paper chains going across the room. As a child, it's very exciting to have celebrations like this. Another big thing that Chinese did with celebration was do fireworks. Fireworks like you never saw before. They had a chain, maybe about 20-30 feet long, of firecrackers all joined together and to celebrate an opening of an event like the way my parents opened the new bakery. They fired the firecrackers and it goes on for, I don't know, 10 minutes or so. Firecrackers crack all the way up. I think people still do that in Chinatowns or what have you, that they have these firecrackers to celebrate an opening or something. But as a child, these are exciting memories.
  • [00:13:11] HEIDI MORSE: Very much so. Did your family have any special sayings or expressions that you remember from growing up?
  • [00:13:24] CYNTHIA YAO: I remember my father who loved to eat. He would say some Chinese expressions about the food. I don't know if it would make any sense for me to tell you what they are, but something like--and I have to use the Hakka words [FOREIGN]. I learned some of these Chinese phrases from them, but he would say something is sweet, or it's sour, or it tastes good, or [FOREIGN] is, I guess, tasted to the tongue, or when you chew it. [LAUGHTER] We'd joke among each other. My siblings and some of my kids, they understand it too. We would imitate what my father would say about a given dish. [LAUGHTER] I'm sorry, I'm really getting into my culture right now with you.
  • [00:14:29] HEIDI MORSE: [OVERLAPPING] That's great.
  • [00:14:30] CYNTHIA YAO: These are fun memories.
  • [00:14:34] HEIDI MORSE: What languages did you speak at home?
  • [00:14:38] CYNTHIA YAO: Well we spoke English. I didn't understand Hakka, the Chinese dialect my parents spoke--I'm sorry, I couldn't speak it very well, but I understood most of it. So we did a mixture. And my parents, because English was not their native language either, we did a mixture. When I was in school, I did maybe just one year of Spanish, but I also, I decided to get to choose a language and I chose French so that when I got into college, I didn't have to take the French exam to get into the college again. Of course, the Jamaican dialect, you all know what that is. Most of us spoke a little more proper English in school and so on. But we all understood each other speaking what they call Jamaican dialect [patois].
  • [00:15:45] HEIDI MORSE: Did you like school?
  • [00:15:46] CYNTHIA YAO: I loved school and because I was short--[LAUGHTER] this is one of the things I remember--I was always put in the front, which is the big deal [LAUGHTER] so I could hear, and see things. The teachers always put me in the front but I really loved school a lot.
  • [00:16:05] HEIDI MORSE: What was your favorite subject?
  • [00:16:08] CYNTHIA YAO: I liked everything but some of my favorites was history and literature, English, and art. I became an art major, but I was very interested in art history. This is later when I went off to college. My elder sister Lily, she was also an art major and she is a fantastic artist. [LAUGHTER] I think a part of me felt that I couldn't really live up to her standards. Not that I was trying to copy her, but I think my love of it was transferred later into the love of art history and going to art museums and learning about the artists and seeing their artwork. That's one of my big loves. Of course, museums, which then transferred later on into the Hands-On Museum.
  • [00:17:21] HEIDI MORSE: We will definitely hear more about that later. Thinking about your childhood now, I know you said you weren't particularly conscious of or thinking about politics. But is there any moment that stands out as a time that you confronted racial discrimination or felt outside the circle?
  • [00:17:55] CYNTHIA YAO: Well, as a child, I don't think so. I know it sounds a little bit shocking, but I think I just accepted life the way it was. The Chinese and the Jamaicans, the Blacks, which are the majority, work very close together in the sense of the Chinese were the merchants, if you will, they're the ones that had all the shops and stores and the businesses, and everybody else was there to work together. I think that in Jamaica it's more of a class situation than a color situation, if you will. Because the class situation meaning if you have more money than others. I think that's the big discrepancy, which is similar to this country, but it's not so much a racial discrimination that you would achieve because I think everybody worked together quite well.
  • [00:19:16] HEIDI MORSE: What kind of community or social services were available to you as a child, were there community centers, recreation programs, anything like that?
  • [00:19:29] CYNTHIA YAO: I am not conscious of it, it probably was so but the schools for example, the school I went to, it did everything. I told you it was all ages, but not only that they had what we call the Girls' School where I think orphans, I'm not sure there were orphans either. But they had a lot of girls that they taught some crafts to and it was separate from the academic school system section, but it was right there on campus. I think in this country, it's more, I don't want to say developed, but they have more of these community services. In Jamaica you're probably had that too, but I just was not aware of it.
  • [00:20:30] HEIDI MORSE: Anything else that stands out about your childhood or your time in Jamaica that you'd like to share?
  • [00:20:36] CYNTHIA YAO: One thing that stands out because I ended up really enjoying museum so much. There were very few museums in Jamaica, in fact, there was only one. It was at the Jamaica Institute [Institute of Jamaica], sort of leftover from the British way of calling museums institutes, I guess. I went there as a child a couple of times and really enjoyed poring over the lofty shelves. And outside we had some animals like a little mini zoo. [LAUGHTER] That was something that stands out very much for me as a memory. The other thing I did, which relates not to museums but to libraries, is that when I finished high school, I went to work at the [Institute of] Jamaica Library [LAUGHTER] as a junior librarian. I guess, some of what happens later in my life, maybe it stemmed from the interests on the love that I developed growing up in Jamaica.
  • [00:21:46] HEIDI MORSE: That's great. What did you do as a junior librarian? [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:21:51] CYNTHIA YAO: I shelved books, I learned about authors you had to put them in alphabetical order and I got a chance to read them, [LAUGHTER] to explore the book. That was actually a wonderful time in my life. I think I worked there for almost a year before I came to this country.
  • [00:22:21] HEIDI MORSE: Let's shift to that move that you made and this is moving more into adulthood and that period of your life. What were your reasons for leaving Jamaica and coming to the US?
  • [00:22:45] CYNTHIA YAO: I was very fortunate. [COUGHING] I'm sorry.
  • [00:22:48] HEIDI MORSE: Take your time.
  • [00:22:50] CYNTHIA YAO: I'm going to have to drink some water. What brought me from Jamaica to the US was really an opportunity that I'm very grateful for. My elder sister, Lily, who was already in the US, she was in the Boston area and she was going to the same college that I ended up going to Emmanuel College, which is right on the Fenway right in the Central Boston area. She was there and I think she was a senior and I was lucky enough to get a part scholarship and I got it, I got to go. I flew in to Boston and she was living with an American family as a babysitter, a live-in babysitter, I think she did that. The college at the time, you had to live in the dorms or at home, but not in an apartment. What happened is, because of my coming, she was allowed to move into an apartment with me and that was a big thing in those days, 1959. When I came to Boston, we ended up finding an apartment near to the college and I saw the settled in there. Both of us did and got some more roommates to share the rental situation. I was very fortunate to get a really good start because somebody was there ahead of me, to open up doors. At the time, my sister Lily, she was engaged to Richard Yamamoto, who was a professor of physics at MIT at the time. He helped me to find a job at MIT looking in the Bubble Chamber group. I know nothing about physics, I can talk to you about that later. [LAUGHTER] But anyway, he found a job for me part-time that I could scan some Bubble Chamber events. I didn't know too much about what they were all about, but they taught me what to look for at the cup. I worked in these huge machines and I did that for five years the whole time, that's what sustained me as a student. Anyway, that was really helpful. I also had some other jobs, but that was the mainstay that really helped me. I also worked at Sears Roebuck, with some girlfriends in the summer, filing bills. I also had a wonderful opportunity to work at the Boston State House with some girlfriends that came to stay with me during the summer. We worked at the Boston State House filing births, deaths, marriage certificates. Then I got to really get an interesting view of what Americans name their kids. [LAUGHTER] That was very interesting.
  • [00:26:54] HEIDI MORSE: Definitely.
  • [00:26:56] CYNTHIA YAO: One name that stands out for me is Rusty Pipes. [LAUGHTER] Anyway that was something that I'll always remember. We would spend time entertaining ourselves to see the interesting names and other situations.
  • [00:27:20] HEIDI MORSE: Well, that leads me to asking, when you first arrived in Boston, what were your impressions of America or of Boston and the people who lived there?
  • [00:27:31] CYNTHIA YAO: It was so exciting. I know everybody talks about the snow, how they hate it. I think we had the first very big snowstorm. The snow came up to past my knees. I was so excited. [LAUGHTER] On seeing the snow drop, the snowflakes falling, how beautiful they are. I'd never seen snow before; I only heard about it. But to live in this environment, I just loved every moment of it. I also loved the changing of the seasons, the color changes, and still to this day, it's just a wonderment to me. That's my biggest memories. There are other sites that we went through around Boston, the water and so on. But above all, this is what I remember most, I loved most of all, and I still do. And I love seafood to this day. I love cooking it, and so on.
  • [00:28:39] HEIDI MORSE: What community did you find there in Boston?
  • [00:28:43] CYNTHIA YAO: Because we were living in an apartment, I got to know a lot of my classmates who many of them were not boarding at school, but were living at home. Really a very interesting array of new friends. To this day I keep in touch with them. They were art majors also, and I even went to a wedding my senior year to an Italian friend that got married early, at least to us, it was early. She was still in school with us, and she got married, and we had a wonderful--my first experience going to a big banquet, an Italian wedding banquet, and to this day I still remember it as being one of the big celebrations I went to. The other thing I really loved is going to museums. Boston is just a treasure trove of wonderful museums, and on top of that also wonderful restaurants. My introduction to a lot of the fine food still remains to this day because I was, I guess developing my tastes for food. That's where I met my husband too. I guess because he was born in China, he introduced me to some of the Chinese restaurants that were in the Boston area. That was an education for me too to learn that there's something besides the Jamaican Chinese food that I was used to it.
  • [00:30:30] HEIDI MORSE: How did you first meet Ed?
  • [00:30:36] CYNTHIA YAO: The truth of the matter is I don't remember when I first met him, but I met his sister [Kathy] who actually was at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, studying chemistry I think. She went to the Boston area to see her brother. I met her first and she said that she would call me up, and we could get together. We never did, she didn't call me up, and I forgot all about it. But then I met him at the college dance, if you will, mostly of Chinese students. He came up and asked me to dance and then delivered the message that his sister was sorry that she couldn't get in touch with me again. That's how I first met him. We all must have something near disaster, which I don't know if I should end up telling you. [LAUGHTER] But anyway, that was interesting. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:31:51] HEIDI MORSE: You can share whatever you'd like.
  • [00:31:56] CYNTHIA YAO: Then he invited me to go out for dinner or something, which was fine. I said okay. Then promptly thereafter, a day later, he called me up and said, "Sorry, I can't make the date; [LAUGHTER] I'm going to Washington DC to see the cherry blossoms." [LAUGHTER] He broke the date, and of course that didn't make me very happy. Then he came back and apologized. I guess we did go out to a restaurant which became famous, I guess. Joyce Chen, this was a Chinese lady who ran this restaurant, and she really welcomed students. I was introduced to some of the Chinese dishes that I was not used to at all, and I loved it. Very nice. Ed and I pursued our friendship for a while but by then I was a senior, I was about to graduate. He was at Harvard getting his PhD. I think he might have had another year to go. Anyway I came back home to Jamaica. Then I guess we kept writing to each other, and then he proposed. I'm telling the whole universe about us. [LAUGHTER] The remarkable thing is that he wrote a letter in Chinese to my father. [LAUGHTER] My father was overjoyed. Not only was he a Harvard man, but he also could write a letter in Chinese to ask for permission. Anyway, he did and then eventually I came back to the US and we got married in Princeton, as I said, he was doing a postdoc-ship at the Institute for Advanced Study, and that is where Einstein was. In fact, we lived on 58 Einstein Drive. By then Einstein had already passed away. But you could hear from people stories about Einstein walking around Princeton. Even the barber shop that I think my husband went to, you would hear stories about Einstein. He was there for two years, and then we were married, I guess the end of his first year, the postdoc-ship. Then we got married when he was finishing his second year. We were there for a while in Princeton then he got a job offer from University of Michigan, and that's when we first came to Ann Arbor, in 1966.
  • [00:35:06] HEIDI MORSE: To repeat that year, 19--?
  • [00:35:08] CYNTHIA YAO: Sixty-six.
  • [00:35:09] HEIDI MORSE: Sixty-six when you came to Ann Arbor?
  • [00:35:11] CYNTHIA YAO: We got married in '65, and then we had Michelle in Princeton and she was only a few weeks. We took her back to Jamaica because my parents couldn't afford to come to the wedding. They met Michelle for the first time, and they met Ed for the first time.
  • [00:35:34] HEIDI MORSE: Luckily, he had made a good impression.
  • [00:35:36] CYNTHIA YAO: I guess so. [LAUGHTER] Then he came first because he had arranged a house for us to rent, and then I came about a month later. There was a little bit of a problem with the house because when he arrived, they told him he couldn't get the house after all, there was some problems with it. He had to find an apartment and we did. We found an apartment on Dexter Road and that's where we settled in for about a year or two. Then he established himself at the university, in the Physics Department by then.
  • [00:36:22] HEIDI MORSE: What was it like for you moving to Ann Arbor with a young baby and finding community here?
  • [00:36:32] CYNTHIA YAO: Well, I had a young baby, Michelle, but in fact, I had three kids right off. I had four kids in five years. [LAUGHTER] I was home a lot with the kids with learning. At the time, I hadn't learned to drive either. That was interesting. The kids were wonderful. They ended up going to nursery school. All four of them went through [Gay-Jay Montessori] nursery school. Then I think when Mark, the second child was born, and I guess growing up, that's when I learned to drive. I took driving lessons and learned to drive through Pioneer High School. That gave me a very interesting introduction to the community, meaning I also joined a babysitting pool, which was a novelty for me. Usually you have a mom or somebody else helping you. But I was the mom and the nurse maid. It was wonderful to have a chance to get out of the house through our babysitting pool situation. I also learned to get around by myself around the Ann Arbor community. That was actually excellent, really good for me. Then when the kids were ready to go to school, after they left Gay-Jay nursery school, we bought a house on Sunset Road in Ann Arbor, near to Wines School, which still exists today. The kids they could walk to school or I dropped them off or I'd drive to school. Then I started volunteering at Wines School, which was a really wonderful. That's where I met a lot of other moms that were very interested in volunteering at the school. Up to this day, I still see my friends from Wines School. Six of us actually meet on Zoom every Friday, which has been very special. That after all these years. Our kids were in the Open Classroom at the time, which was a novel type of education, which I think originally came from the British system. The Open Classroom system, which was more multi-grade and much more open in terms of teaching. My kids enjoyed the Open Classroom situation. But the other good thing about the Open Classroom was that the moms could volunteer in the classroom and help the kids one-to-one. That's something I got involved, with. Then later on, I created, I didn't really create it. Somebody pushed me to do that. She didn't push that hard. But we started making an egg roll sale. We had an egg roll sale at Wines School, and people could order egg rolls. All these moms sat together at somebody's home and we made egg rolls galore, and made a lot of money for the Open Classroom. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:40:22] HEIDI MORSE: You were in charge of that?
  • [00:40:26] CYNTHIA YAO: Pardon me? I wasn't in charge. Some of the moms were. I wasn't in charge--they just asked me to help with the cooking. But everybody who helped with the cooking, it was a big, I don't know, 10 to 15 people. We would do that for a couple of days and then they could order some to pick it up and so on. Up to this day, Donna Wegryn, I don't know if you know about her, but she was the one that organized everything and she's still around. She's one of the ladies that I see on Fridays. But she also created a cookbook with the recipe. She made up the recipe, she wrote it down because I was not that formal with it. To this day her kids who still live in Ann Arbor when they see me, they say, "I still make your egg rolls." [LAUGHTER] So I started some good traditions here.
  • [00:41:24] HEIDI MORSE: That's great. What was her name again? The one who did the cooking.
  • [00:41:28] CYNTHIA YAO: Donna Wegryn. I think she was on the school board. I think she was on the school board at one point. W-E-G-R-Y-N.
  • [00:41:44] HEIDI MORSE: What other family traditions or cultural traditions did you pass onto your children while they were growing up?
  • [00:41:55] CYNTHIA YAO: One of the wonderful things about my life with Ed is that he loves to cook and he's a great cook. In fact, all my kids, when they see each other, they line up, they get their recipes at their home, ready for dad's cooking. Not mine, [LAUGHTER] but his. [LAUGHTER] It's really funny. The traditions that I have, I do make occasionally. I do make Peking duck, which I got from my friends. But it's dad's cooking, it's Ed's cooking that's really the centerpiece of our kids' tradition with eating and food right now.
  • [00:42:41] HEIDI MORSE: What holidays did you celebrate together as a family?
  • [00:42:45] CYNTHIA YAO: We celebrated birthdays, Christmas and New Year, somewhat. Not too many others. Not too many others. I now have a son-in-law [Aaron]. I've learned a little bit about celebrating some of his traditions. But other than that, we do, I don't want to say the usual, but we've become very American in that sense.
  • [00:43:23] HEIDI MORSE: What things did you enjoy doing together while your children were growing up?
  • [00:43:33] CYNTHIA YAO: One of the wonderful things we did at the early part when the kids were really growing up is that, because of Ed's job at the university, we had an opportunity to have five months of summer from the university. This is before school started that we would go to all over the, in fact, we ended up all over the world, including going to Italy. But we would go to different sites. Usually university or national labs, where there's a physics department or there are people in physics there. We would spend the summer at these places, which was an education in itself. That's where I also took the kids to children's museums and science museums around the country. Sometimes they had summer classes and the kids would sign up for that. I went to the Boston Children's Museum, which was the foremost museum there. I also went to Lawrence Hall of Science [in Oakland, CA] and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. These are the big museums that were very well-known at the time. The Exploratorium was started by a physicist, Frank Oppenheimer, who is the brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer. I don't know if you know about the atomic bomb. But J. Robert Oppenheimer, the two brothers who were physicists and he was a high school physics teacher and he couldn't find a job. But he started this museum in San Francisco. It's still there. It is becoming the model all over the world for science centers. That triggered going to-- The kids would, across the bay was the Lawrence Hall of Science, which was very good at education, kids classes, and so on. Different formats, somewhat. So our kids went there and we enjoyed the Exploratorium. Later on, as I got interested in developing the Hands-On Museum, I had an opportunity to go there as a resident. I went with a few physicists [Marc Ross and Joan Ross], getting into another story. But basically we met Frank Oppenheimer at the time and we learned about starting up. It helped me a lot to get started here in Ann Arbor using that as a big model and the other model was the Children's Museum in Boston. I also met, you're not the same generation, but there was a Benjamin Spock, famous baby doctor.
  • [00:46:33] HEIDI MORSE: I have heard of him.
  • [00:46:35] CYNTHIA YAO: You've heard of him? Well, his son [Michael Spock] ran the Children's Museum in Boston for many years. I know his grandson, I think, is in Minnesota somewhere working with history museums. Anyway, there's a family--how should I put it?--generations. If you develop a love for something, it spreads out to the kids afterwards.
  • [00:47:11] HEIDI MORSE: Well now it seems like a good time to ask you to share more about the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and your role in getting that started. Take your time, take a moment, and have some water.
  • [00:47:24] CYNTHIA YAO: Okay. I think the idea of the Hands-On Museum, came out as accident. I took my kids to different places that I mentioned before. I guess I was just always interested in the museum concept. I think it was late 1970s I decided to go back to school because the kids were doing fine with school and I decided to pursue, I found out that at University of Michigan, they had a museum program, so I got in. They were willing to accept my credits from NYU which I had, but that was such a long time ago. I decided to just go through the whole program and spend the time to do that. When it was time to write my thesis, the title of it was: The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, from Dream to Reality? With a question mark. That really was the title because I was so knee deep into trying to getting it organized. It fit in very well. I used that as my thesis and they were willing to accept that. After getting the lessons from the Exploratorium, spending some time out there, I started looking around town. I think it was in 1979, the United Nations had announced that it was the International Year of the Child, and I'd forgotten all about it, but I remember vaguely going to the United Nations to sit in because they were announcing the International Year of the Child. I looked it up recently because I totally forgot all about it, and that's the only year I think that 1979 was designated as International Year of the Child. Somehow, the back of my mind, I thought it would be a wonderful thing to create a museum here in Ann Arbor for children. I remember coming parking across the street, looking in, looking through the doors, the firehouse was locked and it was used as a parking for bicycles, and other voter registration stuff and whatnot. The whole thing was not well used. But I saw the three doors, the garage doors and I thought, perfect. All I could see was the big space. Anyway, there's a little history behind this because around the same time, there was another nonprofit group that wanted it as theater, the Ann Arbor Civic Theater. They had gone to the mayor and asked if they could have the firehouse as a theater. They were given, I don't want to say permission, but they were encouraged to do that. Because I wasn't aware of what was going on in Ann Arbor, I had no idea that they were doing this. Independently we came up with using the building almost at the same time. There were headlines in the Ann Arbor News, "Kids versus Culture," and so on and so forth. The firehouse became a little bit, I don't want to say controversial, but there was a lot of talking about it, what was going on. Eventually, the Civic Theater pulled out on their own and left us with the building. I think they had some other options. I can't remember the details about that. But then we got the building and we were given the task of where are you going to get the money? How are you going to produce such a museum? Luckily, we had by then a really wonderful dedicated group of volunteers. I remember clearly Lucy Kirshner, whose husband was a faculty member at the time. Jean Bollinger, whose husband [Lee] became the dean. He was in the law school. These two ladies and many more became involved with helping to plan the museum. Jean actually wrote the first grant to the State of Michigan to ask for money for a National Register building. The firehouse was designated a National Register building a little bit before we came in. That was the basis of getting the money. It was a matching situation, I think we had to raise three dollars to get their one dollar, and it was about $100,000 which was a lot of money. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:53:37] HEIDI MORSE: That's a lot.
  • [00:53:39] CYNTHIA YAO: Where do we raise $300,000? Luckily, as fate would have it, I just think the whole community came forward. The labor unions, things were very bad, there was a terrible depression. Around 1979, 1980 or so, people were out of work, but labor unions decided to adopt us and they volunteered their labor. This is an awe-inspiring story that I think people have forgotten all about. They became involved and they did a lot of the work, the cleanup work, and setting up the firehouse upstairs, the building where the man slept. Eventually, it took five years, but a lot of volunteer help. Of course, we didn't even think about the exhibits we were going to build. This was just a building, so we went through that whole process. Eventually, I remember the day very well, October 13th, 1982 we opened up. We had about 20 exhibits. We couldn't get to the second floor because there was no money for an elevator, but we managed anyway. We opened up and then somebody from the Detroit news [Detroit Free Press] discovered us. They called us the "Best of the Best" of 80 places he had visited with kids. It was spring break and there were lines around the old firehouse. Firemen had to come out to help us, the police department, to line up people around it. We were just totally overwhelmed. We had no idea what to do but we managed. We got some tickets and we would let people in 50 at a time, and they could go around and do different projects. Somebody else [Joann Ross] created a math project [Math Walk] that they could do in the community--count I don't remember what. There were lots of things that they could do while they were here waiting for their turn. That was a very exciting time for us to be just open and then to find that we had to cope with so many problems. Not really a problem, we had to find solutions. Let's put it that way. We were very fortunate also, there are many more volunteers, but I'll just name two of them. Dick Crane, Professor H. Richard Crane, he was the chairman of the physics department, he was just retiring, and he came in to help us with the exhibits. I had also gotten, the Exploratorium in San Francisco had created cookbook, recipes, about 300 recipes of exhibits that they had built that you could duplicate and build at your own museum, and that's what we ended up doing, many of them. Dick Crane would come in and fix the exhibits before 9 o'clock every morning, and the other person that would come in was Bil Mundus. Bil Mundus, his grandfather was the fire chief, the first paid fire chief in Ann Arbor. He would come as a young boy to the firehouse to be with his grandfather. Those are the two notable volunteers and they brought on other people to volunteer on a regular basis, to help. Slowly but surely we added more exhibits. The Sarns, they had created a heart-lung machine in Ann Arbor, and I think it was sold to 3M. They came in and built, or had built, some of the first exhibits that had to do with the body. We copied a lot of the Exploratorium exhibits, and then other people we met that could build exhibits, we just added and added. Sooner or later, we had several hundred exhibits on the floor, then we developed more exhibits upstairs, and it just kept growing. Before too long, we received a grant--I think it still exists today--from the Institute of Museum Services. This is a federal grant agency, and now I think they have the Institute of Museum and Library Services because they incorporated libraries together. Through the IMS, the Institute of Museum Services, I had written quite a few grants. I think you could apply every other year and you could get a percentage. Which was very unusual that you could get a percentage of your operating budget on it. I think I got about eight or nine of them.
  • [00:59:36] HEIDI MORSE: Wow.
  • [00:59:37] CYNTHIA YAO: Over the years, which was wonderful. [LAUGHTER] Anyway, that was one. Then sooner or later, I also applied to the National Science Foundation, and I received several grants from them to create exhibits that would travel, and to share with other museums. The growth, not only worked in house, meaning at the site, but also, we could spread the word elsewhere too, through these grants. What else can I tell you?
  • [01:00:10] HEIDI MORSE: What was your role, you were the director for several years, right?
  • [01:00:16] CYNTHIA YAO: Well, I was the founder. It took five years before the museum opened. But then I think that the board members--Joe Fitzsimmons who was the head of University of Microfilms at the time-- I was hired to be the executive director. But I think there was a public hiring, meaning they had something in the Ann Arbor News and they advertised it, but I didn't know about that until afterwards. Anyway, they encouraged me to apply, and then I got hired as the Executive Director. That was my role through the whole time.
  • [01:01:00] HEIDI MORSE: Okay.
  • [01:01:05] CYNTHIA YAO: We had two assistant directors, Jean Bollinger and Lucy Kirshner, that I mentioned. Then we added more staff over the years. We added more staff and created an education person, and created a volunteer coordinator, because the mainstay, what kept the museum going, was not the money. We had no problems because we also had to charge admission. But it was really creating the programs, the exhibits and the programs. The education person and the volunteer coordinator, because we had at some point about 500 volunteers working at the Hands-On Museum, giving us three hours a week, or three hours a month, whatever they could give. That really kept us going a lot. I think that's what spread the word a lot because each volunteer would have a family, and so on and so forth. We just went on and on. The spirit of volunteerism is something which was very new to me. I'm still a foreign student or a foreigner. What really inspired me, above all over the years, is the spirit of volunteerism that's in this country. I don't know if it's only in America. There are so many volunteers willing to give their time and giving their talents, you name it. It's all there. That has been an inspiration for me. The memories that I leave, now that I've retired, I'm not there anymore, is really the people that were involved. The firemen, for example, were next door. Sometimes the alarms would go off because there were bats in the building, [LAUGHTER] and I would get up, my husband would dutifully drive me to the firehouse, and we will check out, what was that noise, what happened. The firemen felt sorry for us because we went in there at two or three in the morning, quite a few times [LAUGHTER] . They finally started checking out the sounds for us. Usually it was just a bat or something like that. Nothing was broken or anything. But we found that out. I remember memorably, one time that the fire alarm had gone off, we had just come in to open up, and there was one black bat flying around the firemen. And I found a paper cup somewhere and I covered it. Six firemen came in with bat and tennis racket in hand, and they're going up the steps, [LAUGHTER] and when they saw this cup, they took it away, I don't know what happened to it after that. [LAUGHTER] But these are some fun memories. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:04:21] HEIDI MORSE: Yeah.
  • [01:04:23] CYNTHIA YAO: That's what keeps me going. The other wonderful, exciting, horrible thing that I did--well, Lucy Kirshner actually told the story. She and I were opening up the museum. We also had a beehive. We created a Discovery Room and there was an observation beehive. I'd seen that at the Smithsonian, I'd discovered that one of the museums, the Museum of Natural History, had a beehive. I was cleaning the beehive out, there was a little corridor. The bees were, of course, outside the window, you could see them. I was doing that and the telephone rang. I put down the cover, a little platform, I put it down and went to answer the phone, and the bees got out. [LAUGHTER] And Lucy came out. What happened was, a lady came and knocked at the office door which was right on the same floor, upstairs where the firemen slept, that became the gallery. She said, "Could you excuse me?" She told Lucy, "Could you come out and look?" Anyway, Lucy went out there and she saw bees all over the gallery [LAUGHTER] defecating [LAUGHTER] on the wall, everywhere. She was out with a bat and was trying to escape. Anyway, these are some of the exciting tales that will always be close to my heart. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:06:12] HEIDI MORSE: What a mess.
  • [01:06:14] CYNTHIA YAO: What a mess but wonderful memories. Is this a good time now for me to tell?
  • [01:06:22] HEIDI MORSE: Yeah.
  • [01:06:24] CYNTHIA YAO: I wanted to share with everyone and I think it was at the library. They had copies many years ago. I don't know if it's still there, but I hope so. I just want to tell you about this book that was created right after I left the museum. It's called a Handbook for Small Science Centers. I was the editor. I have four other people that were very active in the science museum world, mostly that were willing to be co-editors. But what is in this book is 55 authors from different science museums all over the world. Mostly in this country, but all over the world that had worked in similar places. It was used as a model for people that wanted to start science centers.
  • [01:07:32] HEIDI MORSE: That's fantastic.
  • [01:07:34] CYNTHIA YAO: There is something I forgot to mention. I don't remember what year was 1980-something
  • [1988], that the Association of Science and Technology Centers, which is the big umbrella organization of science centers all over, it's right in Washington DC and they oversee the development of all these science centers. But Bonnie Van Dorn, who was the head of it at the time, she got wind of it. I think she has a connection also in Michigan. Her husband has family in Dearborn, but I didn't know all of this before. But she had organized through ASTC to have a workshop here in Ann Arbor and we were used as the model startup because there was a big interest all over the country, all over the world. People were interested in starting these hands-on type of museums in their own communities. She developed this and people came from Denmark, from Finland, from New Zealand. These are the out-of-country type people. From Ireland. These are some of the members. They all came here. Of course, many other people from the US came to Ann Arbor and we were used as a startup model. I guess this is what started me by getting to know some of these people and then developing it. The cover picture of this young girl blowing this gigantic bubble, which goes all the way to the back is from the Experimentarium which is in Denmark. Asger, A-S-G-E-R, Asger Hoeg came here because the country was trying to start a museum in an old beer vault. I don't remember the name of the beer, but everybody knows it. [LAUGHTER] It still exists today. This picture came from Asger's place. Beautiful.
  • [01:10:06] HEIDI MORSE: That's great.
  • [01:10:07] CYNTHIA YAO: I would like to suggest that people who are interested they could borrow the book and read some of the stories of these museums that have been inspired by community members.
  • [01:10:29] HEIDI MORSE: People, just like you, it sounds like you were among one of those that really inspired a lot of people to get started in this work.
  • [01:10:40] CYNTHIA YAO: Museum people are very generous, very caring. When I just got started, there was a museum in East Lansing and still exists today called Impression 5 Science Museum. I'm trying to remember her name, the founder [Marilyn Eichinger], she was in Michigan. She used to take not exhibits, but she would take stuff out of stores to demonstrate certain science concepts. That became a science museum there. Later on, she left and she moved to Portland, Oregon. She ran the OMSI, which is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, for many years. I think she's now retired and she's somewhere in Portland, Oregon. But there are lots of people who were willing to just give their time to help. There are so many stories I could tell that it's just very heartwarming. I'll be always grateful to them because they're the ones right here in this community that really created the Hands-On Museum and made it work. I want to tell you one story which I told myself, I wouldn't forget to tell. What was wonderful also is that we created all these classes and we could be very creative about making these classes work. One of the classes that somebody had suggested we do was to do a workshop on patents. They invent something and then they do a patent, like the windshield wiper and other things around the house. We had these 9- or 10-year-old kids come to this class to listen to a few people that had patents. We got about three people, including Bob Eshelman. He was here in Ann Arbor. He was an engineer, retired, and he volunteered to build some of the exhibits there, at the Hands-On Museum. But anyway, he was one of the first people that came, and at the time, he didn't do it but the windshield wiper, I don't remember what it was with it but it had to do with stopping and starting or something like that. Anyway, Bob was one of the inventors. Well, one of the students, a young girl, Sarah Wasserman, who attended maybe other classes that we offered, but also this particular one she and her brother decided that they would do some investigation and come up with a new invention. She won the first prize. I don't remember what the prize was, but she won it for a universal pot top, she called it, meaning the cover for a pot. You know you have different sized pots when you're cooking. She just thought it'd be a nice thing to have a pot cover that could fit all the different-sized pots.
  • [01:14:16] HEIDI MORSE: It would be nice.
  • [01:14:17] CYNTHIA YAO: Yeah. She did it using a cardboard model and she did the rings around each size of pot. It was that simple but so ingenious and so she won the first prize. Well, I can tell you now that I have heard from her dad some time ago that she has become a professor in some law school out west. She's specializes in patent law [LAUGHTER]. This is what inspires me most of all--the fact that kids would come and visit and then something makes them think about, something exciting, I guess.
  • [01:15:05] HEIDI MORSE: Yeah, spark some ideas.
  • [01:15:07] CYNTHIA YAO: Spark some ideas.
  • [01:15:09] HEIDI MORSE: That's great. Well, thank you so much for sharing the story of the museum with us, and your role in it. It's fantastic to be able to record that.
  • [01:15:24] CYNTHIA YAO: Thank you. I don't want to end without really thanking everybody that has not just helped me with this, but also that has helped me with the Hands-On Museum, that has visited the museum, that has been an inspiration too. That I'll take with me forever. I'll always have that.
  • [01:15:52] HEIDI MORSE: If you are comfortable continuing with a few more questions.
  • [01:15:57] CYNTHIA YAO: Sure. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:15:59] HEIDI MORSE: To ask you also, thinking more broadly about your adult life. What kinds of social or historical events were taking place that you recall personally affecting you or your family?
  • [01:16:19] CYNTHIA YAO: I remember two incidents, but one had to do with something happening at Forsythe, which is the junior high school near to Wines, and then another incident that has to do with Asians, and another incident that happened in Detroit about an Asian person [Vincent Chin]. I was aware of it, but the truth of the matter is I was so involved with my work and my life. I didn't get very involved at all, just was outside, which probably, how should I put it, I just was not fully aware of it. As far as racial discrimination, I never really talked to my kids about it. I don't think we did. I talked to my husband recently because nothing came to mind. There are some small incidents, but nothing that really makes me want to say that, how should I put it? I don't want to say hardened, but I've been hurt by some of the feelings that other people might have about me as an Asian. Possibly, the fact that I left the museum when it was at the peak of perfection could have been because of feelings of some people about me. I don't know this, and I prefer not to worry about it. I think it's their problem and they will have to solve it themselves. We had the small incident, but I think it's not a big deal at all. My husband and I were in upper Michigan somewhere and we were on a boat when some teenager looked down at us and shouted something about why don't I go back to my country, something like that. I don't feel that I've really been discriminated. I don't feel any animosity at all. In fact, I feel very proud of my life here in Ann Arbor in general. It's been really quite wonderful. I'm now involved with the Washtenaw County Historical Society. I prefer to just spend my time focusing on enjoying the growth of another museum, which has been here for a long time. It has recently adopted, if you will, another museum, the Argus Museum here in Ann Arbor. As far as the racial discrimination, I don't have much more to say. That's it.
  • [01:20:04] HEIDI MORSE: [LAUGHTER] That's great. Thank you for sharing that.
  • [01:20:09] CYNTHIA YAO: Sorry. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:20:09] HEIDI MORSE: Nothing to apologize for.
  • [01:20:13] CYNTHIA YAO: No, I know.
  • [01:20:14] HEIDI MORSE: I did wonder, did you end up visiting Jamaica with your children very often or did your parents ever visit you here?
  • [01:20:26] CYNTHIA YAO: Only once did we go to Jamaica with the kids when they were little. One of the things when you grow up in a place you stay where you are. We didn't go to the beaches, the North Shore beaches where all the tourists go to. But we had a chance to go there. That's where we ended up with the kids. One of our kids, Steven, who was the third child, when he was in high school, our next door neighbor [Bob Vinter] was the dean of the School of Social Work. He used to go to Jamaica all the time, and in fact he had adopted a Jamaican boy. We met him briefly, but he asked whether Steven would like to go with him. He did. Steven went and spent a wonderful summer, I don't know how long, several weeks in Jamaica. He got to know Jamaica pretty well. How many years ago? Recently, I was asked to go to Jamaica to help them to create a museum about the time, 150 years that the Chinese were actually in Jamaica. That long, which I didn't even know that, but they asked me to go out there. The business people, there's a community group. I went there only for 10 days. I had to create an instant museum, if you will. But there are other people that had donated or loaned items from China, from their parents or what have you. We created this wonderful little gallery in one of the classroom spaces that they opened up to create a museum. I was asked to do that. I think I'm not sure it's in existence still, but I think the galleries are still there open because there was nobody, they didn't hire a person to really run it. But I went back recently, like maybe it's 3-5 years ago, because the high school that I went to, Convent of Mercy Alpha Academy, they asked me to come back and help them because they wanted to create a museum, which a little bit of the history of the school. I went there briefly for a couple of days and I also went and visited the Chinese museum that I had to help a few years before that. That is underway. They're still working on the plans, but they're trying because they've been there for a long time. In fact, one of the Sisters of Mercy, one of the nuns, Sister Bernadette, a Jamaican lady, her sister went to the same college I did in Boston. You see there's a lot of connection all the time. She has since passed away, but she wrote a history of the Sisters of Mercy in Jamaica. I have that book which I could use as a model. But they are still working on it, because of the COVID things are at a standstill right now. I haven't heard from them in awhile, but we'll see what happens. I think eventually it will happen. I'm trying to think about other places that I've helped. There are many museums. There's a museum in Michigan called the Curious Kids' Museum. It's in Kalamazoo. Battle Creek nearby. [St. Joseph.] [LAUGHTER] Sorry. But that was started by somebody [Mary Baske] who came to the Hands-On Museum and decided that she wanted to create one, and it still exists today. She's now retired, she's in Florida. I hear from her every now and then, but I went there to help them to get set up. There are lots of friends that are all over the world that are still working at museums like mine or like I did. I think they provide a wonderful source of education, fun, and hands-on activities that will go on forever because I just think it's what every city should have and it's happening.
  • [01:25:40] HEIDI MORSE: That's really great. Because the museum that you had such a big role in does focus on children, what would you say has changed the most for children from the time you were young until now?
  • [01:26:02] CYNTHIA YAO: Not having being educated in this country, so it's a little bit difficult for me to say. I wasn't that involved with my kids going to school in this country. Your question was, what is different now?
  • [01:26:18] HEIDI MORSE: What has changed for the generations? It could be between your children's time and now.
  • [01:26:34] CYNTHIA YAO: You're talking relating to museums?
  • [01:26:42] HEIDI MORSE: Or anything really.
  • [01:26:44] CYNTHIA YAO: Well, it has changed.
  • [01:26:45] HEIDI MORSE: I thought of it because of museums.
  • [01:26:53] CYNTHIA YAO: I hope that museums will always be there even if they morph into different formulas of learning if you will because that is happening all over too. I'm in touch with people through the internet, the Exploratorium because they're on shutdown. They've also morphed into other programs, they're helping museums all over the world now, taking exhibits and so on. But I think that things will change depending on the people involved that they will make the changes. I don't think the Hands-On Museum will ever be the same, I know they're planning to open soon, I just saw an announcement. They've gotten some new exhibits from a museum in Germany that they've bought and brought here and I think that will be wonderful. I don't want to say a new twist but it would be novel, it'll be different for the Ann Arbor audience. This company in Germany [Hüttinger Interactive Exhibitions], I went to an ASTC conference and I met them and they wanted to come to Ann Arbor to see it and they did. Lo and behold, I was very surprised but the Hands-On Museum decided to buy the first water exhibits that they have to replace a water exhibit that they already had. I was told by the director [Mel Drumm] that they recently bought one that has to do with the body, I don't know if it's similar but somewhat like all first exhibits that we had on the first floor. I think things are changing. I can talk about museums only. As far as the other education systems, I know that the University of Michigan has now an undergraduate museum program, my program has morphed into that, it did so well. But I also know that a lot of museums are closing. There has to be some change. I hope for the best because I think the idea of having an item or an exhibit that you can play with, you can also look at will always be here. But I think people will find innovative ways to make it all work. I hope! But I think they will.
  • [01:29:47] HEIDI MORSE: I hope so. When thinking back over your entire life, what are you most proud of?
  • [01:29:58] CYNTHIA YAO: Well, I'm most proud of course of my children. Not that I had a lot to do with it because they're on their own a lot. I was so busy with the museum but I'm very proud of them. I'm most proud that I've been able to have this wonderful experience of being here in Ann Arbor of creating the museum, of having people love it, and there's a feeling of satisfaction although a little bit of sadness that I'm not there but it's okay. I'm most proud of the fact that I just turned 80 and hope to spend the rest of my life enjoying a good life, a healthy life. As being proud, I don't spend a lot of time feeling pride or being proud of something but I'm happy.
  • [01:31:10] HEIDI MORSE: That's great.
  • [01:31:10] CYNTHIA YAO: It's good and I'm very interested in exploring other things which I think you didn't have enough time in your past to do this. It gives me an opportunity to explore other areas. And thank you, even this opportunity is an interesting one for me and I appreciate it.
  • [01:31:38] HEIDI MORSE: We're so grateful that you wanted to share. Is there anything else that you'd like to add that I haven't asked about?
  • [01:31:50] CYNTHIA YAO: Not really. I would again like to thank everybody that has been involved with the museum past and present, I should mention one person who just passed away in May, Lorraine Nadelman. She was a professor here in the psychology department. She was one of the first women to be in the department and she was a trustee of the Hands-On Museum. She also was responsible for getting her boss, as it were, to give a little bit of money to help to create the Hands-On Museum, something like $1,500 to celebrate the International Year of the Child. I just remembered that I had totally forgotten that but since Lorraine just passed away I would like to thank her memory for being so kind as to continue to be my friend. And she created a program at Burns Park School and I understand she continued it using the Hands-On Museum in some way, I'm not quite sure how it was done but she did. I also would just like to just thank all the people that are still with me around that I still see, I'm very grateful to them for their friendship and so on.