The Le family

Khanh Le, B.E.E. 1982, and Lynne Tran, B.E.E. 1983 — CatholicU sweethearts who married in 1986 — first met when they were just children in Vietnam, but only one of them remembers that meeting.

“There are other of our classmates who have similar stories,” says Khanh. “There were a lot of Vietnamese refugee students at the University when we were there, so we are not unique — except maybe for meeting our spouse at 5 years old.”

Lynne left Vietnam in 1975, on the last day before the city of Saigon fell. The majority of Khanh’s family stayed, largely because the men in his family, officers in the South Vietnamese Armed Forces, were arrested and sent to concentration camps. They had to bribe officials to be released, and then fled the country under threat of recapture. After a multi-country trek, one of Khanh’s brothers, already in the United States, sponsored the family’s entrance in October 1979.

Lynne and her family had settled in Arlington, Va., while Khanh’s family made their home in Rockville, Md.

“When I first saw my wife, she was a work-study student,” he says, recalling that she was working at a desk in Pangborn Hall. “But I never met her until junior year, when we took some classes together.

Lynne vividly remembers, “He was the thinnest and poorest-looking guy in class.”

Both Lynne and Khanh were intent on school, Lynne had her work-study job, and Khanh worked full time to pay for tuition. “We were mostly focused on study. We had no time for anything else,” he says, adding he completed his B.E.E. as quickly as possible because he couldn’t afford to spend all four years in college.

The couple did make time for dates in The Loft. “It was a little cafeteria area, and our favorite place on campus. Mostly we ate bread and butter on our dates, because we were so poor,” says Khanh.

But their history together, and the history of their two families, goes back a lot farther than their 1980 meeting. “My father was in the Engineering Corps of the South Vietnamese Armed Forces,” says Khanh. He was a civil engineer and went around the country building military bases. His father-in-law was an electrical contractor, and they’d known each other since about the 1950s.

“The last time my father and father-in-law met was in 1965. In 1980, when Lynne and I met, I told my parents who her father was and they said, ‘Oh, we know him.’ I think I actually saw Lynne when she was 5 or 6, when her family had come over to our house, but she doesn’t remember.”

Following graduation, Khanh received a scholarship to attend Stanford University. He worked for several companies in Silicon Valley and started five of his own. Now, he is an investor in start-ups that are largely involved in artificial intelligence.

Lynne worked for 16 years in the aerospace industry, including time at the Goddard Space Flight Center, where she worked on the Space Shuttle program. In 2000, she discovered a calling in real estate, and has since built
a successful business.

Khanh and Lynne have returned to Catholic University several times to visit and pray at the Shrine. In 2014, they brought their children, Michael and Eileen, to visit campus. “We wanted to show them how we started out and to make sure they get the idea of how we worked hard and managed tough situations to become who we are today,” says Khanh. “We don’t want them to take things for granted.”

They recently decided to support Catholic University through a bequest as a reflection of their gratitude for all the University gave them. The bequest will create an endowed scholarship for the School of Engineering.  

— A.K.