Christy Anh-Thu Trinh-Malarney

Her life was a remarkable journey that reached from Vietnam to the United States and back to Asia. Christy Anh-Thu Trinh-Malarney embraced a new language and culture, while never losing a strong commitment to her primary identity. Throughout her too-short journey of 36 years, there were two themes that remained constant: the importance of helping others, and the power of education.

January 01, 2011

Christy Anh-Thu Trinh-Malarney in Hue, Vietnam. Christy, her husband Shaun, and their two children spent a year in Vietnam during Shaun's sabbatical leave.

"So many of Christy's interests and concerns came together at UC Santa Cruz," said Shaun Malarney, describing the education and life experiences of his late wife. Christy, a 1990 Merrill College graduate, died of cancer in 2003. '"She felt that the university, the education, and the extracurricular activities were some of the most tremendous experiences of her life."

To honor Christy's life and achievements, Malarney, his parents, and Christy's family have created the Christy Anh-Thu Trinh-Malarney Student Award. "We wanted to do something that showed how much UC Santa Cruz meant to her," said Malarney, who himself benefited from student support funds while he was in graduate school. "We hope that the winners of the award will carry forward in their lives and work the same spirit and commitment that Christy had in hers."

The award recognizes a graduating UC Santa Cruz senior who shows a commitment to educational achievement and to increasing the understanding or improving the welfare of people of Vietnamese heritage in the United States, Vietnam, and abroad.

"Christy had an extraordinary experience at UC Santa Cruz," said Malarney, "and her own identify as an adult very much related to the fact that she was a UC Santa Cruz graduate. She chose this campus because of the unique environment and unique educational experience."

Christy was eight years old when she, her parents, and her sister arrived in the U.S. in 1975, refugees from Vietnam. She spoke no English, and when her family recognized that most Americans couldn't properly pronounce her given name, Trinh Ngoc Anh-Thu, she chose Christy as her American name. Her family lived in Missouri and Oklahoma before settling in California.

Christy's years at UC Santa Cruz, where she earned a double major in politics and East Asian studies, were "transformative," said Malarney, who is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at International Christian University in Tokyo. "When Christy was at Santa Cruz, a number of her life goals came together."

In addition to her studies, Christy was active in the UC Santa Cruz Vietnamese Student Association, serving as president for two years, and she helped raise funds for Vietnamese refugees through the San Francisco People Walk-a-Thon. Following Christy's graduation, which included honors in politics, she worked in Hong Kong as a preschool coordinator at two Vietnamese refugee detention centers.

"From her late teens onward, Christy had devoted herself to her native country and its people," said Malarney, "but her potential contributions to them were never fully realized due to her untimely death. It is our family's goal to recognize her and to set something up to acknowledge the achievements of others as committed as she was."

To learn more about this scholarship or to establish other need-based scholarships at UC Santa Cruz, please contact John Hopkins at 831-459-3822 or