Ivy Chang was born into a Chinese political family in Beijing, China. Her grandfather served under Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Nationalist Party, and had no idea the family would have to leave in 1949 when the Communist Party took over China. Her father, Robert W. H. Chang, left Beijing in 1948 when he was accepted by the University of Minnesota to study for his master’s and doctoral degrees in biochemistry. He could not bring his family with him because U.S. Congress did not allow students to bring their families at that time. He told his extended family he would return to China in three years after he received both degrees, not knowing what was to happen in China.
Ms. Chang was one of 20 Chang family members who took a ship to follow Chiang Kai-shek to what was called Formosa at the time, the westernmost island that then belonged to Japan, which is now Taiwan. Chiang became president of Formosa after he led millions of Chinese people to the island. Ms. Chang learned Chinese characters and speech from her grandfather and then attended a private school in Taipei from age 4 to age 8. The school was started by Madame Chiang Kai-shek after the Chinese arrived in Taiwan. Her mother also enrolled her in piano lessons, which taught Ms. Chang how to read music and sing.
In 1951, the Korean War was being fought and Congress would not allow Asian students studying in the U.S. to leave nor allow Asians to come to the U.S. Ms. Chang’s father had to stay in Minnesota and find work. Ms. Chang and her mother waited in Taiwan for her father to return. After Ms. Chang’s father went to work at General Mills, the chief executive officer at General Mills discovered that his Asian employees could not bring their families to the U.S. and sent the mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert Humphrey, to Washington D.C. to see what could be done. Although Ms. Chang and her family did not want to stay in the United States, congressional laws and rules made leaving difficult for many Asians who were studying and receiving advanced degrees in the U.S.
Ms. Chang and her mother arrived in Minneapolis on September 30, 1955. Her father settled them in a temporary apartment in the St. Paul suburb of Roseville where Ms. Chang could attend better schools to learn about American life. She did not speak or understand American English and had to learn on her own with help from her parents. She excelled in arithmetic and other subjects, and, as she progressed through the grades, she was determined to work extensively and with patience to learn about American education and life.
After high school graduation, Ms. Chang attended the University of Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism in 1970. Within a few weeks after graduation, Burlington Northern Inc. hired her to work in the employee communications office as an editorial assistant to help publish the company magazine and newsletters and work on other communications projects. She was promoted to a personnel position after five years to help hire people to work on railroad tracks, engines and cars, and other railroad parts. The company is now BNSF Railway Company.
In 1978, Ms. Chang accepted a position as editor and writer for 3M Company’s public relations department and, in 1979, accepted a job as manager of employee communications at International Multifoods, now part of Beatrice Foods. She was a member of Women in Communications at both companies.
In 1980, she went to work as a communications specialist at St. Paul Public Schools, publishing a monthly newsletter, conducting meetings, helping community residents learn district information, and assisting any department with communications. Her department at the school district received an award from Education Minnesota for its publications. She left in 1992 to begin her own business.
Ms. Chang founded PR International, which served small, women- and BIPOC-owned businesses in addition to a few larger corporations and the public sector. She assisted her clients with events, meetings and publications. PR International worked with other agencies in communications and public relations to expand their clients’ lists.
In 2006, she received an offer from Reed Business Information in Atlanta to be the managing editor of a weekly magazine on construction. She downsized PR International and accepted the job to learn about construction. On August 1, 2007, the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, which was in Ms. Chang’s magazine’s territory. She rushed downtown to see the bridge and, later, RBI asked her to write a weekly update on the construction progress to be included on RBI’s website. The new bridge was dedicated in September 2008. Ms. Chang received an honorable mention award from the Construction Writers of America for the bridge updates.
RBI disbanded during the economic downturn in 2009 and sold Ms. Chang’s magazine to SGC Horizon Company in Chicago. She worked with the Chicago office until 2012.
From 1998 to 2022, Ms. Chang appeared in 20 commercials and corporate videos of local large and small businesses, such as Target, Best Buy and Medtronic, along with nonprofit organizations. Some commercials were shown nationally.
She was perpetually motivated throughout her life by her desire to discover the world and to continue learning about all that life has to offer. Although she could not live in the country where she was born or the country where she was raised, Ms. Chang made the best conditions for herself by speaking two languages, meeting people of many nationalities, traveling to places where she learned about their cultures, and volunteering at nonprofits to help people who are less fortunate in life. She was a board member of the University of Minnesota minority students committee, the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter, the Barbara Schneider Foundation and the Minnesota Museum of America Art.
Ms. Chang retired in 2022. Friends and acquaintances have asked her to help them with their work occasionally and she has agreed.