Gene Luen Yang

Honorary Degrees


California State University, East Bay​

Gene Luen Yang is an influential educator, graphic artist and author whose distinguished contributions have enriched California State University, East Bay, the broader East Bay region, California and the United States.

A native of the Bay Area, Mr. Yang received his bachelor’s degree from University of California, Berkeley in computer programming and a master’s degree in education from CSU East Bay. He taught computer programming for several years, most notably for 14 years at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland. Having grown up with a love of comic books and illustration, Mr. Yang conceived a project that would reflect his unique experiences growing up as one of the few Asian Americans in a predominantly white suburb. A New York Times bestseller, "American Born Chinese" became the first graphic novel nominated for a National Book Award.

In 2007, Mr. Yang received both the Eisner Award for "American Born Chinese" and the prestigious Printz Award from the American Library Association—the first graphic novel to receive such an award. He went on to produce a two-volume graphic novel in 2013, "Boxers & Saints" about the Boxer Rebellion in China. "Boxers & Saints" won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was nominated for a National Book Award.

In recognition of his significant, breakthrough accomplishments in the world of graphic novels, Mr. Yang was appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in 2016, a biannual honor given by the Library of Congress. Mr. Yang also received a MacArthur "Genius" award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, given to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential.

As part of his national ambassador responsibilities, Mr. Yang launched "Reading Without Walls," a campaign promoting reading and diversity. Readers of all ages were challenged to explore characters different from themselves, engage in unfamiliar topics or try reading in an unusual format.

Most recently, Mr. Yang completed writing a new "Superman" series for DC Marvel Comics, with the iconic character reimagined as a Chinese superhero. His version revealed how the "Man of Steel" is, at heart, an immigrant standing up for justice in America.

In recognition of his global, civic and humanitarian accomplishments, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, East Bay are proud to confer upon Mr. Gene Luen Yang the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.