Featured Alum: Chief Thomas Chan

In Featured Alum, we interview prominent alumni about their careers and  memories of Stuyvesant.

Thomas M. Chan ’75 is the Chief of Transportation for the New York City Police Department.  Prior to being appointed to this position, he served as the Chief of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau.  Thomas holds a Bachelor of Science from St. John’s University and worked as a paramedic prior to joining the police force in 1982.  He is the first Asian-American to obtain both the two star and three star rank in the New York City Police Department.

Alumni Office: How did you first start down your career path?

Chief Thomas Chan: My exposure to emergency care began at St. John’s when I responded to an advertisement for an emergency registrar position for which I was later hired.  Through this position, I was exposed to emergency workers including paramedics and police officers.  I was intrigued by their work as well as the excitement and drama in the emergency room.

AO: What’s been the most interesting part of being Chief of the NYPD’s Transportation Bureau? What’s been the strangest thing that ever happened to you during your time there?  What about being Chief of Community Affairs?

Chief TC: As the Chief of Transportation Bureau, I’ve been charged with the overall implementation of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero program within the police department.  This program is a collaborative effort between city agencies and the public to reduce fatalities and injuries related to motor vehicle collisions.

It’s not the strangest thing nevertheless public speaking and city council testimony was not an area I had aspired to.  However, it is an aspect that, quite often, is required in my new assignment.

Both positions, as the Chief of Transportation as well as the Chief of Community Affairs, have afforded me the opportunity to make a difference.  In Community Affairs, I led the development of new programs to target young children deemed at risk and to have a potential for future criminal activity.  I further established stronger community relations through sports activities and leagues, outreach and a partnership with our religious communities.

AO: Did you do anything related to your work when you were a Stuyvesant student?  What did you think you were going to go into as an adult when you were a student there?

Chief TC: As a Stuyvesant student, I developed the organizational skills, including time management and positive study habits, which are important components in any work environment.  I also learned the secret to success for any good manager which is…preparation, preparation, preparation.

As a student, I had planned to go into the science field and aspired to be a pharmacist.  However, after several bouts with Organic Chemistry, I eventually changed my major to Hospital Administration. 

AO: What sort of student were you at Stuyvesant?

Chief TC: I was an above-average student while at Stuyvesant. I was pre-occupied with after school employment as it afforded me an income, independence and self-reliance.

AO: What’s a really unique memory you have of the school?

Chief TC: I enjoyed attending SING! as well as the Asian Club, of which I was a member.   I also really enjoyed my lunch periods with my friends as we would chit-chat on the day’s events.

My memory of school was my first week of Stuyvesant and all the new teachers and friends.  I knew at that moment that I was a part of a very special place.

Two areas that I enjoyed were classical music and art.  I can still recall Music Appreciation with Mr. Pomerantz and Art Appreciation with Mr. Rosen.  Today, I still enjoy classical musical and have a fondness for opera and expressionist paintings.  Looking back, I’m truly grateful for my exposure to these areas that I received as a Stuyvesant student.

AO: How did you get to Stuyvesant in the morning?

Chief TC: I took the M15 bus to and from school on 1st and 2nd Avenue from Chinatown.

AO: What was most valuable to you about going to a specialized high school?

Chief TC: The school and its environment provided me the personal, social and academic circumstances to grow.  The students weren’t just from the local neighborhood and represented a diverse cross-section of New York City in one school.

AO: What’s the best part about being an alumnus of the school?

Chief TC: As alumni, we can give back in more than just monetary contributions.  Maintaining contact and involvement in school and alumni functions is mutually beneficial and rewarding to every Stuyvesant student both past and present.