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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, left, shakes hands with IPFW chancellor Vicky Carwein at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

IPFW ‘proud to be partner’ in visit

When IPFW Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs George McClellan read that Aung San Suu Kyi would be visiting Fort Wayne as part of a speaking tour in the U.S., he almost immediately took steps to get the university involved.

“We’re a region-serving institution. We see the Burmese community as an important part of our region,” he said. “We believe the visit of an international leader of democracy … is important not just to Burmese folks but to all folks in our region.”

Suu Kyi spoke Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum to a crowd of about 5,000 people.

While McClellan said the attention IPFW drew for being a major sponsor of the event is nice, he gave much credit to the welcoming committee, headed by Tun Oo.

“We weren’t trying to be in charge. We were proud to be a partner, to be a sponsor,” McClellan said. “The job that (Oo) did as chair was just outstanding.”

The university will share the $8,000 to $10,000 price tag of the event with seven other sponsors, including the YWCA, St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and City of Fort Wayne Metropolitan Human Relations Commission. But IPFW will pay about $5,000, he said.

Most of the costs were for the stenographer, who communicated with a translator to caption Suu Kyi’s speech in English; equipment to broadcast the event; and fees to use the Coliseum, McClellan said.

IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein also spoke at the event Tuesday, saying the university is grateful to be a partner in the event and is proud to offer a number of outreach programs aimed specifically at the local Burmese community.

McClellan, who became part of the welcoming committee, helped carry out a number of tasks required to make the event work, such as bringing in a translator from IUPUI, designing the program brochures and “whatever I could to help Mr. Oo.”

“We were always trying to be respectful of the committee,” he said.

McClellan said the event for the most part went smoothly, minus a 10-minute period without translation, and he expressed hope it will open doors for future collaboration.

“We have many outreach programs. It wasn’t the first time we’ve worked with (the Burmese community). I’m hopeful it will mark the expansion of our relationship with the Burmese community,” he said.