Growing up in a military family, May-Ling Kuo Gonzales moved frequently, making it hard to maintain lasting friendships as a kid.

May-Ling Kuo Gonzales (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“I remember learning that some people have childhood friends that they stay connected to, which seemed so unfamiliar to me,” she said. “But not having that constant growing up has made me a community builder, as I see the beauty and benefit of bringing people together.”

Over the past 17 years, May-Ling has built a career connecting the Stanford community, first with the Stanford Alumni Association (SAA), and now as the director of alumni relations for Stanford Law School. For her many contributions, she is a recipient of the 2022 Amy J. Blue Award, which recognizes Stanford staff members for their exceptional service and dedication to the university, support for their colleagues, and passion for their work.

May-Ling was born in San Francisco but moved frequently around the country because of her father’s Army career. Her family eventually settled in Texas, where she would later graduate from The University of Texas in Austin. She relocated to the Bay Area in the 2000s when her boyfriend (now husband) enrolled in graduate school at Stanford. Soon after, she landed a job as a regional events assistant at SAA.

“We lived in Escondido Village and enjoyed getting to know our neighbors and the graduate student community,” she said.

May-Ling held several positions at SAA, planning and coordinating events for Stanford alumni, including many tailgates at bowl games, and played a big role in organizing faculty programs such as Classes Without Quizzes at Reunion Homecoming, which attracted more than 7,000 alumni to campus last year.

“I love the feeling of Stanford reunions in the fall,” she said. “Being able to see the smiles and the feelings that alumni have when they step back on the campus and reconnect to the nostalgia they have is really special.”

From 2013 to 2016, she partnered with faculty on Stanford+Connects, a four-year, 16-city global tour that brought together thousands of alumni together to learn about the latest Stanford discoveries. As SAA’s director of alumni education, she worked with academic departments and programs across the university to create learning experiences for alumni and identify faculty speakers for intellectual programming including webinars and Sierra Camp.

A brilliant collaborator

Over the course of her Stanford career, May-Ling has played a significant role in shaping SAA, including hiring and managing many employees. Her colleagues describe her as a “brilliant collaborator” who is highly strategic and forward-thinking. They praise her leadership, mentorship, and compassion for her co-workers.

“She’s the best supervisor and colleague I have ever worked with,” one nominator wrote. “May-Ling always takes pride in making sure her colleagues and reports have the tools they need to succeed to accomplish their goals.”

Victor Madrigal, the director of alumni and student class outreach at SAA, has known May-Ling for more than 15 years. He said her intellectual vitality and curiosity have contributed to a wide range of successful programs, panels, conferences, and reunions. He also praised her ability to forge strong inter-departmental relationships with staff and faculty and said her commitment to individuals and communities is the essence of her work.

“May-Ling embodies the dedication, commitment, and positivity that characterize the Amy J. Blue Award,” he said. “I count myself among the many across campus who know May-Ling to be a deep thinker, a life-long learner, a patient listener, and a people connector.”

Reflecting on her nearly two-decade career on the Farm, May-Ling said that part of what has drawn her to Stanford is the transformative role that colleges and universities play in the world.

“Stanford is its own ecosystem that offers an environment where ideas are embraced and welcomed and you learn how to cope with difference,” she said. “I love being able to contribute to that.”

Outside of her work, May-Ling enjoys reading and hiking. She’s been involved with Stanford staff groups Asian Staff Forum and La Raza Staff Association, learned to dance the hula at a Stanford exercise class, and has attended many sporting events. She often spends her weekends on campus with her family, riding bikes and fountain hopping with her son, Taro.

“Stanford feels like home in many ways for me,” she said.

Amy J. Blue Awards

In addition to May-Ling, Ken Hsu, assistant vice provost and director of the Graduate Life Office in the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs, and Susan Taylor, finance manager in the Department of Economics, are winners of this year’s Amy J. Blue Award. President Marc Tessier-Lavigne will present the awards at a public ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, at 3:30 p.m. at Lagunita Court. All are welcome to attend.

The award honors Amy J. Blue, a long-time Stanford employee who held numerous positions at Stanford in the 1970s and 1980s, including associate vice president for administrative services and facilities. Blue died of brain cancer in Palo Alto in 1988. Following her death, an endowment fund was created to honor her legacy by awarding Amy J. Blue Awards to outstanding Stanford staff. Since 1991, 106 Stanford employees have received the award.

More information about the award, including the nomination and selection process, is available here.