AUSD HQ Rededicated

File photo    Nielsen Tam worked at the Alameda Unified School District for decades.

Last Friday, the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) celebrated the memory of the late Niel Tam by naming the district office for him. The office at 2060 Challenger Drive now bears the name “Niel Tam Education Center.”

Tam, a native of Chicago, Ill., passed away on May 24, 2015. He had worked for AUSD for more than 30 years.  He is especially remembered for his devotion to children with special needs. He gave the city much of his time outside the classroom, volunteering at Girls, Inc. Alameda Point Collaborative, the Alameda Food Bank, the Alameda Multicultural Community Center and Alameda Family Services. 

Tam was the youngest of four boys in a family of Chinese immigrants who settled first in Chicago and later moved to San Francisco. He lost his father when he was just 5 years old.  He attended San Francisco State University, where he earned two master’s degrees, one in special education, the other in school administration. He came to Alameda as a student teacher, and never left. 

Tam taught special education in the Island’s schools and spent 11 years of his as an administrator, first as an assistant principal at Will C. Wood Middle School, then as a principal at the now-shuttered George P.  Miller Elementary School. He also served for two years as principal of the former Washington Elementary School (now Maya Lin School) and stepped in to assist with the 2006 opening of Ruby Bridges Elementary School.

After he retired from teaching Tam ran for won election to a seat on AUSD’s Board of Education in 2008. He was re-elected in 2012 and served as board president in 2013.

Because of his deep level of civic engagement and selfless devotion to community, Tam received numerous awards, including:  San Francisco Foundation’s Koshland Civic Unity Award for community leadership in 2002; the Coro Northern California Community Leadership Program Fellowship in 2006; and the American Red Cross Award for Community Service in 2008. 

In 2015, the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County honored Tam with a plaque engraved with a Chinese character for “bright light” and that recognizes him for “shining a bright light on injustice and showing us how to fight with honor.”

That light will continue shine on Challenger Drive.