Betty Kwan Chinn

Honorary Degrees

California State University, Humboldt

Betty Kwan Chinn is a philanthropist and local hero in Humboldt County who has helped disenfranchised people in the community since the 1980s including people who are homeless, those struggling with behavioral health issues and disabled veterans. Ms. Chinn’s own experience with homelessness began at age seven, when her family was violently turned out from their home in China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. After emigrating to the United States, Ms. Chinn took refuge with relatives in California, later marrying retired Humboldt State Physics Professor Leung Chinn, and raising two sons in Eureka.

Her life changed again one day as she was volunteering in her son’s school. She noticed that one of his classmates was living out of her family’s car. Ms. Chinn started sending extra food to school to share with the girl and her service to the community began.  

Today, the Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation consists of Chinn’s Day Center, offering transitional housing, and employment and family services; Betty’s House, a 32-bed family shelter; Betty’s Blue Angel Village, a temporary housing shelter built from shipping containers, Betty’s Annex, a women and children’s center which she opened during the pandemic, Betty’s Showers, a public shower facility, and Betty’s Blue Angel Outreach, which offers wraparound services to hard-to-reach individuals in need of specialty services.

Ms. Chinn was the recipient of the Minerva Award in 2008, which recognizes women serving on the frontlines of humanity. In 2021, Ms. Chinn was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Barack Obama. Speaking about Ms. Chinn, Obama praised her effort and success in “renewing America’s promise by serving those in need.”

Ms. Chinn has made an outsized impact on thousands of lives and the community surrounding Humboldt State University. Her four decades of selfless service epitomizes the purpose of California State University to provide opportunities for all individuals to develop intellectually, personally, and professionally, while contributing greatly to California’s culture and future.

In recognition of her lifelong commitment to community service, being a visionary leader, and contributions to a more equitable society, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt are proud to confer upon Betty Kwan Chinn the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.