INDIANAPOLIS — May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We’ve already highlighted some of the historic contributions by people in the AAPI community, but it’s also important to focus on current contributions. That’s why we’re introducing you to Albert Chen. His story is one of a first-generation immigrant.
“You realize that first-generation come in, and really try to adapt to the environment. So, we usually work hard, reasonable, humble, and have a work ethic,” said Chen.
He moved to America, from Taiwan, in 1968, after his family persevered through tough times. While living in Taiwan he said they “Probably, (spent) a year, year and a half, where we became homeless.”
However, Albert turned those hardships into motivation. He said it helped “build my character.”
His character even helped propel him towards college, in America. Chen moved to Oregon and graduated from Portland State.
After that, he came to Indiana and worked for GTE. It was a leap of faith that was accompanied by a sense of humor. “I don’t know what supply management do, right, so I said fine,” said Chen.
He started a life and after spending more than a decade working for GTE, he launched Telamon Corporation.
The company served as a telecommunications service’s supplier in all forms and today, it does that and much more than that. There are now two business units for Telamon, which include telecommunications and industrial solutions. That means they work with everything from the connectivity in mobile phones, to inside stadiums, schools, and wiring for airbags.
Now, Telamon operates in 48 US states, as well as internationally, but its headquarters are in Carmel.
You can say Hoosier hospitality stuck with him. Chen said, it was the friendliness, “people are so nice.”
The company now has about 2,000 associates. When you ask Chen how successful it is, he’s modest. He doesn’t mention it’s worth — about $770,000,000, according to data from 2019.
In 2014, Telamon was the 13th largest private company in the state, simply based on revenue. His work building the company from the ground up has made the front pages of magazines.
Now Chen is retired and his children run Telamon, but his office still has his name and is decorated in pictures, memories, and items that represent his culture.
It’s a culture Albert helped share. He founded the Asian American Alliance and the America China Society of Indiana.
“You come here to get an opportunity. People help you and maybe it’s time for us to pay back,” said Chen.
Still, he pays it back even more through creating academic scholarships to support minorities at schools like Indiana University, Purdue University, and Butler University. To Chen, His story shows our individuality cultivates strength, especially in our Hoosier community.
“Be yourself, because we are all different,” said Chen.
Even though Chen is retired he’s started a new project. Telamon Robotics is only one year old. He’s now working with Purdue and Vincennes University, to partner on the "Cobot" and supporting education and manufacturing.
The Cobot is an automated robot, that’s designed for safe interaction with people in the workspace.
If you touch it, then the robot will stop. It’s also intended to give people an extra set of hands. There will be an open house with Purdue in September to demonstrate the Cobot.
On June 8th, he’ll receive the Andre B. Lacy Vanguard Award, the namesake of Butler’s school of business, through Conexus Indiana.
It’s for standing out as an advocate and championing Indiana’s “advanced manufacturing and logistics industries.”