Leaders & Legacies: Kenneth Moy Sr. and Patricia Moy, dedicated to public service and philanthropy
Leaders & Legacies: Stories of Local Impact is an ongoing series brought to you in partnership with the Daily Herald and DuPage Foundation. It highlights the inspiring stories of local individuals, families, and businesses that have made or are making a lasting impact for our community through their generosity and leadership.
The series continues with the Honorable Kenneth J. Moy Sr. and Patricia D. Moy (1934-2022).
Ken Moy Sr. and his late wife, Patricia, met in their forties through a mutual friend.
"At the time my mom was in love with a doctor, and wanted nothing to do with my father," joked Ken Moy Jr., the couple's only child. "But he was very persistent."
Ken's persistence paid off. What ensued was nearly 50 years of love, family and a shared passion for the law that spurred successful careers for the couple.
Upon retirement, Ken made it his mission to give back to the local communities that inspired him and helped him learn, grow and succeed.
In turn, the Moys made transformative gifts in support of education and senior care, reflective of their own journey through life, starting out as law school students.
Patricia grew up in Chicago and attended Chicago-Kent College of Law. Before she became an attorney, she was a writer and enjoyed writing mystery novels for fun -- something Ken Jr. refers to as her "true passion."
Ken's parents left China in the 1920s and came to America with the hope of finding more opportunity for their family. When he was a young child, Ken's mother decided to move their family from Chicago to the suburbs.
"At the time, the suburbs were not that inviting to different ethnicities," Ken Jr. said.
But the family forged ahead, and planted their roots in Elmhurst. Though they could barely speak, read or write English, Ken's parents opened a full-service laundry business and restaurant in downtown Elmhurst.
Through his parents' journey to assimilate to American life and make a living, Ken encountered his own struggles and didn't learn to read until he was in fourth grade. But he was determined to succeed.
He graduated from York Community High School in 1951 and received his bachelor's degree from Elmhurst College (now Elmhurst University) in 1955. Ken was always interested in the sciences and had looked into going to medical school, but instead he decided to become an attorney.
After graduating from John Marshall Law School in 1961, Ken practiced general litigation and opened his first law office in Elmhurst. While practicing law for several decades, he dove into politics through a desire to serve the public and promote goodwill.
As a young boy, Ken Jr. watched his father break barriers and become the first Asian American elected to county government in the state of Illinois after winning a seat on the DuPage County Board in 1984. Ken won reelection in 1988 and 1994 and served as a DuPage County Forest Preserve Commissioner during that time.
In 1996, Ken was elected as a judge for the county, again a first. He served as a member of DuPage County's 18th Judicial Circuit Court for 11 years.
"My dad overcame unprecedented times and circumstances," Ken Jr. said. "He grew up during a time when discrimination against minorities was common, and it fueled his mission to become successful in everything he pursued."
After a long career on the bench and as a public servant, Ken hung up his robe in 2007 and joined Patricia in retirement. His new focus became finding ways to give back to the community and support nonprofit organizations.
Ken was introduced to DuPage Foundation after attending a charitable planning event and soon enlisted the organization to help him achieve some of his charitable goals.
In 2015 he created the Kenneth Moy Scholarship Fund of DuPage Foundation, a permanently endowed fund that provides an annual award to a York Community High School senior who plans to pursue a career in a science-related field.
Amy Thompson, a college and career counselor at York, works with the Moy family and DuPage Foundation on the selection process for the scholarship winners.
"Judge Moy's scholarship honors students planning to study science -- something that he had longed to do," Thompson said. "He always joked with me that he was never smart enough to be a doctor. But college is really expensive and every little bit helps, especially these types of scholarships. It can help fill the gap and let our students pursue the schools they know are the best fit for them."
Thompson said it was her experience working with Ken that led her to nominate him for the annual Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Duke of Distinction award, part of York's Distinguished Alumni Program.
"He has done some pretty remarkable things," Thompson said. "And he sets a great example for these students."
Ken was named a Duke of Distinction in 2020 and was recognized for his career accomplishments and contributions to the Elmhurst community and DuPage County.
The plaque recognizing him reads, "Due to his tenacity, perseverance, and determination, Judge Moy found great success in his career, which has allowed him to give back a great deal to the Elmhurst community."
Earlier this year, Ken expanded his giving to provide annual scholarships to students attending Hinsdale Central High School, his son Ken Jr.'s alma mater.
The scholarship, named after Ken Jr. and his son, Caleb, will benefit a graduating Hinsdale Central High School senior. He also established the Judge Kenneth Moy Endowed Scholarship at University of Illinois at Chicago for incoming law school students.
"It means so much to me that my support can encourage young people to pursue an advanced education," Ken said.
Patricia always supported Ken in his charitable endeavors and political aspirations.
When she was stricken with Alzheimer's disease in 2008, Ken became her primary caregiver. Soon after her diagnosis, Patricia needed daily help and moved into the DuPage Care Center (formerly known as the Convalescent Center), DuPage County's nursing facility for the elderly.
Before Patricia passed away, Ken would visit her at the center every day but couldn't really talk to her due to her condition. Seeing the residents and their interactions with staff and each other inspired him to help seniors and disabled adults, and the families struggling to care for them.
In 2016 Ken donated $2 million to the DuPage Care Center Foundation, a philanthropic organization that secures resources to enhance and expand quality-of-life programs and services available to residents living at the facility.
Soon after, the DuPage County Board voted to rename the facility the Kenneth Moy DuPage Care Center to honor its benefactor.
To further extend his impact, Ken became a member of DuPage Foundation's Legacy Society, creating a donor-advised fund that will become a permanent endowment upon his passing for his son to continue their family's philanthropy.
The agreement includes a provision for the fund to support programs that promote equality for Asian Americans through education, and to combat discrimination and violence against Asian Americans in the event Ken's family members cease to act as fund advisers.
Ken Jr. is looking forward to recommending grants to local charities that mean the most to his family.
"I want to show my son that you don't have to be a celebrity to make a difference," Ken Jr. said. "And we're blessed to be in a position to be able to help and give back."
• The Leaders & Legacies series is brought to you by the Legacy Society of DuPage Foundation. Suggestions for future stories can be sent to Mindy Saban, director of communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested in learning more about how you can make an impact or create a legacy for your community and favorite causes? Visit www.dupagefoundation.org or call (630) 665-5556. DuPage Foundation is located at 3000 Woodcreek Drive, Suite 310, in Downers Grove, IL 60515.