International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Refugee Journeys: Thong Nguyen - Vietnam, 1975

"I believe that it is crucially important for an organization like the IRC to take care of people who fall through the cracks, and to reestablish some balance. My family and I were given the second chance. You can’t control what happens to you but you certainly can get a helping hand in terms of moving forward."

- Thong Nguyen

When the family of Thong Nguyen was reunited in New  York in 1975, it was a dramatic moment: his mother, five siblings and their father, a ranking member of the South Vietnamese military, had not been sure they would all be alive to see one another again if Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. But events unfolded fortuitously, and all eight family members safely reached New York, where they were resettled in Manhattan.  

For a year they lived in the tight quarters of a small apartment and considered themselves lucky, even though they were starting over almost from scratch. Friends in New York found Nguyen’s father a job with a nonprofit health organization. It paid the minimum wage, but the family slowly regained its footing and independence. 

At their parents’ insistence, young Nguyen and his siblings concentrated on school, even though they wanted to earn money and contribute to the household income. 

Nguyen won a scholarship to Columbia University, where he earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering and then an M.B.A. in finance and marketing. He joined McKinsey & Co. as a consultant and later moved to ge capital, where he was head of mergers & acquisitions, sales and e-business for its consumer finance group. 

In 2003, Nguyen joined Bank of America. as the West Division executive of U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth management, he is responsible today for delivering wealth structuring, investment and credit & banking solutions to clients. He also serves as an active member of the Bank of America’s Diversity & Inclusion Council. 

Nguyen lives in San Francisco and is on the board of the San Francisco Ballet and the New York-based Partnership with Children.

Watch video of Thong Nguyen telling the story of his refugee journey.

Thong Nguyen one of 10 distinguished refugees who were honored by the International Rescue Committee at our 2010 Freedom Award Dinner in New York City.  Check back each Monday for a new story of a refugee who has fled tyranny and persecution and who has made the most of the opportunity to begin again and thrive in the U.S.   You can see all of the stories posted so far here.

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