Descendants of Thomas and Lillian Ma are paving a path to success for current and future UCI students.

Anteaters for Life

No matter where life takes them, some Anteater alumni never really leave UCI. This is especially true for multi-generational Anteater families.

Growing up, Diana Lieu ’79 often worked at her parents’ grocery store with her sister after school. During down time and after store hours, she would help restock shelves and complete her homework. Her priorities were always study, work and then extracurricular activities (if any).

For extra income, her mother worked as a seamstress, bringing home extra pieces to sew. For Lieu and her three siblings, the emphasis was to do well in school in the hopes of qualifying for a scholarship to a university. “It was understood that we should all go to college,” said Lieu. “Not only did we need to go to college, we needed to find the most cost-effective way of funding our way through.”

Scholarships and student loans enabled Lieu to consider a UC program, in addition to the Cal State system, with UCI as her top choice because of its impressive biology program and beautiful campus.

“When my parents learned that I was accepted to UC Irvine, they were ecstatic,” recalls Lieu. “For the first time in our grocery store’s history, my parents closed the store early so both of them could attend my high school graduation.”

Diana Lieu, middle left, with her family, including son Darren on far right.

When Lieu graduated from UCI in 1979, the university was only 14 years old. And a lot has changed. “I have seen UCI evolve over the years to become a highly ranked school, innovating and expanding to meet the needs of a changing world,” said Lieu. “My son [Darren] flourished in this new environment.”

All Part of the Family

But Lieu and her son are not the only Anteaters in the family. Two of Lieu’s siblings received their Ph.D.s at UCI. Lieu’s husband, David, received his medical degree here. It is no surprise that many of Lieu’s nieces and nephews have also graduated from UCI, bringing the total to eight family members with degrees from UCI.

“When my parents passed away, I noticed at the family gathering that many of us have a connection with UC Irvine,” said Lieu. “The value added by a UCI education, in our family, is immeasurable. Given what the university had done for each of us, my siblings and I felt it was time to give back.”

Together, the four siblings created the Thomas and Lillian Ma Endowed Scholarship in their parents’ honor. The scholarship supports students who are the first in their families to attend college and are first- or second-generation immigrants.

“The Ma scholarship is a great homage to my grandparents,” said Darren Lieu ‘16. “My parents have always been giving back to the community for as long as I could remember. They didn’t say anything explicitly to me about their philanthropy, but their actions speak louder than words. Just seeing how happy my parents are when they support things they love and seeing how grateful the recipients are were enough to influence to me do the same.”

Darren Lieu ’16 hopes to follow in his parents’ – and other family members’ – footsteps by being an active Anteater alumnus who also gives back.

Whether it is supporting our next generation of leaders, preserving your passions or redefining healthcare, you too can make a lasting impact at UCI. Learn how here.

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