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Shirley Young, Trailblazing Business Executive and “Cultural Diplomat,” Dies at 85

Shirley Young Obituary

Shirley Young, a former Vice President of General Motors who played leadership roles in several major cultural organizations, died on the night of December 26th, 2020, in New York.  Ms. Young, 85, had been Executive Vice President of Grey Advertising, founding Chair of the Chinese-American leadership organization Committee of 100, and Chair of the US-China Cultural Institute.

The death, at Memorial Sloan Kettering, was confirmed by her son William Hsieh.  Ms. Young had just celebrated Christmas at home with her three sons, David, William and Douglas Hsieh. 

Ms. Young, who immigrated to the United States as a child at the end of World War II, was a trailblazing business executive perhaps best known for her critical role in General Motors’ billion-dollar investment in China's auto industry through the Shanghai SAIC-GM joint venture to produce Buicks.  Ms. Young initially joined GM in 1988 as Vice President for Consumer Market Development at General Motors' headquarters. Her office was on the famed “14th floor” of the General Motors Building where she was often the lone woman in the executive dining room.

In the early 1990s, Ms. Young became involved in GM’s efforts to expand its business in China,  and was asked to move to Shanghai and made Vice President for China Strategic Development and Asia Pacific Counselor.  In this new capacity, she worked to shape GM’s strategy and achieve its goals by understanding the needs of its Chinese counterpart, and of the many entities that had a role in the auto industry and the joint venture approval process.

Prior to joining General Motors, Ms. Young spent nearly three decades in the research division of Grey Advertising, where she was involved in pioneering the use of psychographic research and brand character.  She eventually became Executive Vice President, a member of the Agency Policy Council, and President of Grey Strategic Marketing.

Ms. Young’s business success led her to be invited to serve on the boards of many corporations, oftentimes as the first woman and the first Asian-American.  Corporate boards she served on include Bank of America, Bell Atlantic/Verizon Corporation, Dayton-Hudson/Target Corporation, Holiday Inn/Promus/Harrah's, Teletech Holding, Inc., and Salesforce.com, and as Vice Chairman of the Nominating Committee of the New York Stock Exchange. She also served on the boards of many nonprofit organizations, including the worldwide Board of Directors of The Nature Conservancy and its Asia-Pacific Council; Associates of Harvard Business School; and Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts; and a former trustee of Wellesley College.  She was a founding member of the Committee of 200, an international organization of leading businesswomen.

In 1990, Ms. Young helped establish the Committee of 100, together with other prominent Chinese-Americans including the architect I.M. Pei, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and the philanthropist Oscar Tang, and remained active in the organization for the rest of her life.  In her later decades, she became an ardent, engaged, and strategic supporter of the arts and served on the boards of the Interlochen Center for the Arts; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra; the New York Philharmonic; the Lang Lang International Music Foundation; and the National Dance Institute. She was an International Advisor to the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center and a member of the Advisory Council for Shen Wei Dance Arts and the Tianjin Juilliard School. 

Ms. Young championed and befriended countless musicians from China and established many constructive and enduring cultural exchange partnerships between the US and China.  She played a key role in organizing a major concert to commemorate the 1997 return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty; the concert, in Hong Kong, featured a set of 64 ancient Chinese bronze chime-bells, known as bianzhong, for which the composer Tan Dun wrote Symphony 1997: Heaven Earth Mankind, and in which Yo-Yo Ma performed.  In 2002, Ms. Young put together the program “Perlman in Shanghai,” which brought the world-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman to China for a three-week workshop under the auspices of the US-China Cultural Institute.  She created “Dancing into the Future,” a collaboration between the National Dance Institute, the China Welfare Institute Children’s Palace, and the Shanghai Minhang school district that has given more than 10,000 primary and middle school students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds the opportunity to study dance.  When Ms. Young learned that the United States had no plan to showcase a pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, she got involved and helped raise enough money to ensure that the US would have a presence after all.  Earlier this year, she was the honoree of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s fiftieth anniversary gala.

At the time of her death Ms. Young was completing a professional memoir titled From an Outsider to an Insider: Getting to Win-Win.  In the book, Ms. Young used her life experiences to underscore what she called “the Power of C,” or culture, character, and comfort.  To become an insider who could make an impact and bring about positive change in any setting, wrote Ms. Young, one had to work hard to understand the culture; demonstrate character by generating trust and showing others that you had their best interests at heart, rather than just your own; and create comfort, meaning to make others comfortable working with you, even if you came from very different backgrounds and seemingly had little in common.

Shirley Young was born in Shanghai on May 25, 1935, to Juliana Yen and Clarence Young.  Her father, a graduate of Princeton University and Tsinghua College, was a diplomat who represented the Republic of China in postings that included Geneva, where her older sister Genevieve was born; London; and Paris, where her younger sister Frances was born. 

Following Clarence Young’s execution by the Japanese occupiers of the Philippines, Ms. Young’s mother - a renowned Shanghai society belle and one of the earliest women to graduate from Fudan University – married the statesman Wellington Koo, a leading participant in the founding of the League of Nations and the United Nations.  In 2018-19 Ms. Young produced “Wellington Koo the Diplomat – A Life in Song” in Shanghai and New York. 

Ms. Young received a scholarship to Abbot Academy (later Phillips Academy), which she considered one of the best things that ever happened to her, since the school taught her to be American and to embody her new country’s “core values, work ethic, morality, and generosity.”  She then attended Wellesley College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, an experience that broadened her understanding of people, deepened her intellectual foundations, and taught her, she wrote, “that everything is connected; it ultimately doesn’t matter whether it’s art, or economics, or language, they're all connected. So, if you can connect the dots, you really can make things happen, much more than if you just stay in one particular channel, because, in the end, you’re dealing with people — and that’s what life is all about.”

Ms Young was married to and divorced from George Hsieh (deceased) and Norman Krandall.  She is survived by sons David Hsieh (Lori), Bill Hsieh (Amy), Doug Hsieh (Annabel Fan), grandchildren Elizabeth Hsieh, Hannah O’Neel (Danny), William, Charles, George, Audrey and Josephine Hsieh.  She was preceded in death by her father Clarence Young, stepfather Wellington Koo, mother Juliana Koo and sisters Genevieve Young and Frances Tang.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to: In Memory of Shirley Young, US-China Cultural Institute, 150 E 69th Street #2N, New York, NY 10021

开拓市场的企业高管 “文化外交”使者杨雪兰女士逝世 享年85岁

讣告

民间“文化外交”使者杨雪兰(Shirley Young)女士于2020年12月26日(周六)晚在纽约去世,享年85岁。杨雪兰曾任美国通用汽车公司全球副总裁,在此之前任格雷广告公司(Grey Advertising)执行副总裁。同时,她还担任了数个主要文化机构的领导者,是美国华裔组织百人会的创始人及首任会长,也是美中文化协会主席。

她的儿子薛兆仁(Bill Hsieh)证实了其在斯隆凯特琳纪念医院去世的消息。杨雪兰女士日前刚与儿子薛兆一(David Hsieh)、薛兆仁及薛兆山(Douglas Hsieh)在家中庆祝了圣诞节。

幼年的杨雪兰在二战结束后随家人移民美国,作为一位开拓性的企业高管,也许最出名的是她引领通用汽车进驻中国市场中扮演的关键角色,推动了高达十亿美元的投资项目,见证了上汽通用汽车合资企业的建立和第一辆中国生产的别克汽车投入市场。

杨雪兰于1988年加入通用汽车公司,担任全球总部消费者市场开发副总裁,成为通用历史上第一位亚裔女性副总裁。她的办公室位于著名的通用汽车大楼“14楼”,在那里她经常是行政餐厅中唯一的女性。

九十年代初,杨雪兰开始参与通用汽车在中国拓展业务的工作,并迁至上海担任中国市场战略发展副总裁和亚太区高级顾问。在这一新职位上,她深入了解中国同行和其他汽车行业实体以及合资企业审批流程,制定了通用汽车的发展战略,从而帮助公司达成目标。

在加入通用汽车前,杨雪兰在格雷广告公司工作三十余年,成为应用市场心理学调研和品牌个性的先驱者。后来担任执行副总裁、机构政策委员会成员以及格雷战略营销总裁。

在商业上的成功使得杨雪兰受邀担任诸多公司董事会要职,并且常常都是第一位女性和第一位亚裔。生前担任过董事的企业包括美国银行(Bank of America)、大西洋贝尔/威讯通信(Bell Atlantic/Verizon Corporation)、戴顿赫德森/塔吉特百货(Dayton-Hudson/Target Corporation)、假日酒店/Promus/哈拉斯集团(Holiday Inn/Promus/Harrah's)、Teletech公司和Salesforce.com公司,也是纽约证券交易所提名委员会的副主席。她还是许多非盈利组织的董事会成员,包括大自然保护协会全球董事会及亚太区理事会、哈佛商学院教育团体、马塞诸塞州菲利普斯高中、维斯理女子学院,也是国际女企业家组织Committee of 200的创始成员。

1990年,杨雪兰与建筑设计师贝聿铭、大提琴家马友友、慈善家唐骝千等著名美籍华人一同创办了百人会(Committee of 100),一直热衷参与该组织的工作。晚年的杨雪兰全心投入艺术文化事业,成为一名热情付出的支持者及战略导师。曾先后担任因特洛肯艺术中心、底特律交响乐团、底特律艺术学院、上海交响乐团、纽约爱乐乐团、郎朗国际音乐基金会、美国国家舞蹈协会的董事。她也是林肯中心室内乐协会的国际顾问、沈伟舞蹈艺术团和天津茱莉亚学院的顾问委员会成员。

杨雪兰结交并支持了无数来自中国的音乐家,更在中美之间建立了许多具有建设性和持久的文化交流伙伴关系。她在1997年香港回归盛典大型音乐会的策划组织中发挥了关键作用,联合大提琴家马友友、作曲家谭盾演出了《交响曲1997:天地人》,将一组64件编钟运用其中。2002年,杨雪兰一手策划了“帕尔曼在上海”系列活动,由美中文化协会主办,邀请小提琴大师帕尔曼前往中国,举行为期三周的研讨交流活动。她开创了“舞向未来”艺术教育试点项目,美国国家舞蹈协会、中国福利院少年宫、闵行区教育局和美中文化协会合作,为一万多名不同社会经济背景的中小学生提供了学习舞蹈的机会。当得知美国没有计划在2010年上海世博会上设立展示展馆时,杨雪兰参与进来,帮助筹集足够的资金,建成了美国国家馆。近十年来,她作为文化交流的先驱,通过主流文化艺术机构,大力宣传推广中国新年文化传统,比如持续九年的纽约爱乐乐团中国新年音乐会以及林肯中心中国新年学生日。今年早些时候,她还获得了林肯中心室内乐协会五十周年庆典颁发的特别荣誉。

辞世之际,杨雪兰正忙于她的回忆录《从局外人到局内人:寻求共赢》(暂译)的最终完善工作。在书中,她用亲身经历来阐释着“C的力量”,即文化(Culture)、个性(Character)和舒适(Comfort)。她写道,要成为能够产生影响力并在任何环境中带来积极变化的局内人,必须努力理解文化;建立信任并证明你将他人的利益牢记于心,而非只想着利己,从而展示个性;让别人能舒服地和自己一起工作,哪怕彼此背景不同、差异悬殊,此可谓创造舒适。

杨雪兰1935年5月25日生于上海,为严幼韵与杨光泩之女。父亲杨光泩是民国政府外交官,姐姐杨蕾孟、妹妹杨茜恩分别在瑞士日内瓦、法国巴黎出生。杨光泩后来担任中国驻马尼拉总领事,在菲律宾被日军杀害。母亲严幼韵曾是上海滩名媛、复旦大学首批女大学生,后嫁给外交家顾维钧先生,其在国际联盟和联合国的建立中起到重要作用。2018-2019年,杨雪兰分别在上海和纽约主持制作了《人生如歌:一代外交家顾维钧》音乐会。

杨雪兰曾获得艾波特学院(后来的菲利普斯高中)奖学金,她认为学校教会了她如何成为美国人,教会她这个新国家的“核心价值观、职业修养、品德和慷慨”。此后,她就读于维斯理学院(Wellesley College),以荣誉毕业生毕业,那段经历拓宽了她对人的理解,加深了知识层面的基础,并教会她“一切都是相关联的,无论是艺术、经济学还是语言,它们都息息相关。因此,如果你有能力把所有的点串在一起,就能获得成功,而不能仅仅停留在一个特定的通道中,因为说到底,你要与人打交道——这就是人生的真谛。”

杨雪兰曾先后与薛杰(已故)和Norman Krandall有过两段婚姻,遗有长子薛兆一(妻Lori)、次子薛兆仁(妻Amy)、幼子薛兆山(妻Annabel Fan),孙辈有Elizabeth Hsieh、Hannah O’Neel(Danny)、William、Charles、George、Audrey和Josephine Hsieh。姐姐杨蕾孟与妹妹杨茜恩已先于杨雪兰过世。

临终前,杨雪兰仍担任美中文化协会主席,致力于通过加强文化和教育的交流在美中之间架起一座理解的“桥梁”。其家人及协会工作人员将继续履行协会的使命,引介和推动美中两国主要文化和教育机构建立新的合作关系,引介和推动具有长远发展前途的文化新观念与其他机构协作来完成和资助已定的交流项目,协助开创新的文化和教育交流项目,提供启动资金和双元文化的咨询,培养年轻华人艺术家的国际职业发展。

应家属意愿,民众请以捐赠替代鲜花的形式来追思杨雪兰女士,捐款请寄至美中文化协会:In Memory of Shirley Young, US-China Cultural Institute, 150 E 69th Street #2N, New York, NY 10021