From growing up in a leper colony in South Korea to having two heart transplants, the guest speaker at an Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month event May 24 shared his experiences overcoming life’s obstacles.
Architect, engineer and entrepreneur Timothy Haahs described life-threatening personal and professional struggles he overcame through love, compassion and perseverance during the event at the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support in Philadelphia.
Haahs came to the U.S. with his family when he was 12, and is now a U.S. Senate-confirmed appointee to the Board of Directors of the National Institute of Building Sciences.
“Looking at the theme for this month, ‘Unite Our Vision by Working Together,’ what kind of procedure, policy or strategy can we do in order for us to unite our vision to work together?” Haahs asked.
Haahs said that on a personal level, expressing love and caring about people helps to overcome individual and collective challenges. He then illustrated this perspective with an anecdote about taking responsibility for foundational cracking in a major architectural project with structural safety issues to avoid physical harm and litigations.
“If I could infuse love into my business, things would be dramatically different,” Haahs said. “[And] based on what I went through in life, I was determined to overcome that,” Haahs said.
Haahs founded an architecture and engineering firm that specializes in the planning and design of parking and mixed-use structures. However, Haahs said he focuses on the people who will use these structures with the mantra, ”your life is our business.”
Haahs shared images of large projects he’s led, including the Philadelphia Zoo Centennial District Transportation Center, the Philadelphia Amtrak 30th Street Station parking facility and the Miami Courthouse Center.
Haahs also shared photos of himself recovering from his first heart transplant in his early 30s. He spent six months in the hospital waiting for the surgery and then required a second transplant a few years later. Haahs founded his company two years after his first heart transplant.
The DLA Troop Support workforce joined NAVSUP Weapons Systems Support employees at the event, which was sponsored by the DLA Troop Support Equal Employment Office and NAVSUP-WSS EEO Advisory Committee.
NAVSUP WSS Deputy Commander Navy Capt. David Ludwa described the event as a celebration of the historic and unique achievements and contributions of Asian American Pacific Islanders. More than 56 ethnic groups and over 100 languages of Asian American Pacific Islanders make up the rich, diverse cultures of individuals in the U.S. and its territories, he said.
“From philosophy to architecture, to cuisine and cutting-edge technological advances, to a proud legacy of service in the Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force, it is not hard to see how Asian American Pacific Islanders have helped to shape our history, culture and prosperity,” Ludwa said.