PASADENA — Pacific Asia Museum announced May 10 that Executive Director Charles Mason will step down at the end of June to become the founding executive director of the Kruizenga Art Museum at Hope College in Holland, Mich.

“We are extremely grateful for the scholarship, strategic vision and broad community outreach that Charles has provided during his time with the museum,” said Katherine Murray-Morse, chair of the Board of Trustees.

Charles Mason with Union Bank CEO Masashi Oka at the Pacific Asia Museum’s 2012 gala. (Photo by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Under Mason's leadership, Pacific Asia Museum completed the renovation of the Korean Gallery as part of the museum's continued reinterpretation of its permanent collection galleries incorporating a thematic approach, and will renovate the Chinese Gallery later this year. In addition, he led the revitalization of the museum's Collectors' Circle and the installation of an updated fire life safety system.

During his tenure, the museum has also reaffirmed its strategic mission of furthering intercultural understanding through the arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands — as Asian culture is not only an integral and significant part of Southern California today but also an increasingly important force in world culture — that may include expanding its mission through future collaboration and partnerships.

The museum announced that Margaret Leong Checca will assume the position of interim executive director upon Mason's departure. A former chair of the Board of Trustees, she has successfully overseen previous transitions at the museum.

Leong Checca will be spearheading the museum's development efforts on a temporary basis, while the board and executive committee commence a search for an executive director with a strong development background that will enable the museum to build its funding and endowment to expand its core programming and outreach, identified in its most recent strategic plan.

Margaret Leong Checca

“The museum could not have a better steward to continue this important mission,” said Murray-Morse. “Not only is Margaret well known by the museum community, she is well known and highly respected for her non-profit experience and for her contributions to the greater community at large.” 

Leong Checca was formerly vice president, financial services of Shappel Industries, a large regional home builder, for many years and a CPA with a bachelor’s degree from CSU Los Angeles. She and her husband Michael have been residents of Pasadena for many years.

Pacific Asia Museum is among the few institutions in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Since 1971, it has served a broad audience of students, families, adults, and scholars through its exhibitions and programs.

The museum is located at 46 N. Los Robles Ave. in Pasadena and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $10 general, $7 students/seniors, and free for museum members and children under 12. Admission is free every fourth Friday of the month. For more information, visit or call (626) 449-2742.