SDSU announces $5 million Black Resource Center naming gift

With a generous donation, a grateful family honors a Black couple who helped their Chinese-immigrant parents settle in Coronado.

Saturday, March 16, 2024
Brothers Lloyd Dong Jr. (left) and his brother Ron stand outside of their childhood home on C Street in Coronado. (SDSU)
Brothers Lloyd Dong Jr. (left) and his brother Ron stand outside of their childhood home on C Street in Coronado. (SDSU)

In early February, brothers Ron and Lloyd Dong Jr. visited their childhood home on C Street in Coronado.  It was a farewell trip to a place where the brothers’ Chinese-immigrant parents, Lloyd Sr. and Margaret, had created a happy home for the boys and their two late sisters, their gardener dad tending a tidy yard and their mom keeping an immaculate house.  

Along with their spouses, Janice and Girina, Ron Dong, 86, and Lloyd Dong Jr., 82, shared memories of the house and an adjacent property they had decided to sell. Their remembrances included stories of Gus and Emma Thompson, a Black couple who were among modern Coronado’s earliest residents.

Gus Thompson had been born into slavery just before or during the early years of the Civil War in Kentucky, where he made the acquaintance of E. S. Babcock, a founder of the Hotel del Coronado. Thompson came to Coronado in the 1880s as an entrepreneur who built a home and a livery stable, above which were rooms he rented to Black coach drivers and other workers who had trouble finding lodging in Coronado during that era.

When the Thompsons moved across the bay to San Diego in the late 1930s, they rented the C Street house to the Dongs at a time when few Coronado homeowners were willing to rent to immigrant Chinese. 

“The rent-to-own offer made by the Thompsons was their break,” Lloyd Dong Jr. recalled. 

Years after Gus Thompson’s death, his widow sold the Coronado property to the Dongs in accordance with a previous agreement with him. The property remained in the Dong family until its recent sale.

To repay and give back

Over the years, the livery stable became an apartment building. Now, $5 million of the proceeds from its sale, along with the C Street house, is being donated by the Dong family to San Diego State University’s Black Resource Center (BRC). With the donation, the BRC will be renamed in honor of Gus and Emma Thompson. 

The Dongs’ gift is a gesture of gratitude to the couple who gave their parents a boost when they needed it most, not only with housing, but also helping Lloyd Dong Sr. expand his business. Ron Dong remembers Thompson, specifically, as a champion of Coronado’s early communities of color and his later efforts in San Diego as well.

“When you look at all the things that Gus Thompson did, he did a lot of things for a lot of other people, things that they might otherwise could never have done themselves,” Ron Dong said. “We wanted to do something to repay him, to give back.”

Lloyd Dong Jr., who attended the university for a year before completing his degree at another institution, agreed.

“San Diego State and the Black community, I think, was a very good place to put the money,” he said.

Changing lives

Tonika Green is SDSU associate vice president for Campus Community Affairs and a professor in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology. Much of her work with students is through the BRC where, she said, the Dong family’s gift will improve the lives of countless students through mentorships, career development, and advancement opportunities.

“We have always been faced with the challenge of the capacity to serve more students at the Black Resource Center and within the academic programs at the BRC. With this generous donation, we have the capacity to grow and touch more students.”

Green said the many possibilities provided by the Dongs’ gift are just beginning to be explored.

“This is bigger than what we imagined, this helps us think bigger, impact more lives, and witness dreams come true right before our eyes. The Dong Family will change lives with this gift,” Green said, emphasizing that gains students make through educational enhancement could influence their families for generations.

“It's a gift that never stops giving,” she said. “It just continues for lifetimes to come.”

The BRC will share the story of the Thompsons and the Dong families with students and others, Green said. “It’s an example of what we talk about: service, leadership, and giving back.” 

Janice Dong(left) and her husband Ron with Lloyd Dong Jr. and his wife Girina during a visit to the brothers' childhood home in Coronado. (SDSU)Janice Dong (left) and her husband Ron with Lloyd Dong Jr. and his wife Girina during a visit to the brothers' childhood home in Coronado. (SDSU)Connecting the dots

According to Green, 95% of SDSU students who go through the BRC’s academic programs graduate. BRC administrators hope the Dongs’ naming gift will boost the percentage even closer to 100.

Dong family members say they are impressed by the support students receive from the BRC throughout their SDSU experience and beyond. They feel that, much like the property-investment examples the brothers’ parents taught them, they are making a good investment in SDSU.

“We were awed by the fact that there is a greater follow-through in the BRC with students,” Ron Dong said, “covering their needs and concerns, or whatever else, perhaps even into grad school.”

The C Street properties that joined a Black family and a Chinese family are now advancing the values of both in a way that neither Gus and Emma Thompson nor Margaret and Lloyd Dong Sr. could likely have imagined. 

“The Black Resource Center (gift) was like the icing on the cake of this whole thing: it just feels right,” Janice Dong said.

“All the dots are connected,” her sister-in-law, Girina Dong added. “There's a peace that says this is the right direction to go.” 

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