top of page

Xuan Nguyen Pham (1958—)

Xuan Nguyen Pham, one of Oklahoma’s most illustrious Vietnamese immigrants, tells her remarkable story below.

I was a seventeen-year-old freshman in law school in 1975 when the Communists took over (South) Vietnam. My parents wanted me to leave Vietnam with my two sisters and their families, because my brothers-in-law were both in the military and one was still in the war, and they were concerned about our safety. The day we left, we had to speed in the car to the ship that was getting us out. We had no idea if we would make it to the ship before it left, nor where it was going if we did. We made it with just minutes to spare before it pulled out.

I was able to get out because my brother-in-law was a captain in the navy and got us out by a Vietnamese navy ship. After that, we were transferred to an American ship. We were in the ocean for a few days. I really didn’t know where I was going or what my future would hold, because I was so sad about leaving my parents.

The American ship finally stopped at Subic Bay (U.S. naval base in the Philippines) and we met an American man. He was so nice. He helped us with the paperwork. Then we got on a helicopter to Guam. Because of my brother’s status, they helped us leave Guam soon, then we went to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, a large refugee camp for Vietnamese.

My sisters decided to move with their children to Martinique in the West Indies, where our uncle owned a Vietnamese restaurant. I was still in shock and walking around Ft. Chaffee like a robot, but I didn’t go. I assumed I had to give up my dreams for education and get a job. I don’t know why I chose to stay in America. There was no logical reason for it. It was just a feeling I had. I felt that I could make something of myself and find happiness here.

Invited to Oklahoma

Then Claremore Junior College President Richard Mosier showed up at the camp. He interviewed hundreds of people and chose twenty-five to come to the college. I was one of those twenty-five. I received financial aid for school, a work-study job, and sponsors who were like parents to me and helped me learn the culture and English, which I could barely speak at all. So I think it must have been my destiny to stay here, because it was not something I planned.

My second year in Claremore, going to school and working for dentist Richard Perryman, I became very sick. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or concentrate. One night my roommate, Hao Nguyen (no relation) arranged to have me taken to the emergency room at the Claremore hospital. Now I realized I was suffering from a combination of loneliness, exhaustion, depression, and a lingering sense of dislocation.”

My roommate thought I was dying and I think she was right. She called Trung Pham, a young man who was a friend of my brother back in Vietnam, with whom I had become friends at Fort Chaffee before he went to San Antonio for his own financial-aided college studies. Trung knew he had to see me right away. He drove all night and when he got here, I began to feel better!

That visit was the beginning of a long-distance romance for us. We eventually married. After I graduated from Claremore Junior College, we decided to move to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah and finish school there. So I graduated with a business administration degree and my husband graduated as a medical technologist.

He then earned his medical degree at the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, and joined the U.S. Army out of appreciation for America. Such generosity, we and our fellow students learned from Oklahomans.

Since then, I have had a career as a bank executive in Tulsa and Trung has had a successful medical practice there. We have three thriving sons whom we are so proud of.

The Oklahomans’ hospitality is amazing. Without their help, without their believing in us, we would not be who we are today. Our deepest appreciation goes to Claremore, to Dr. Mosier who gave us the opportunity to come here to go to school, and to everyone who has helped us so much to be who we are today.

Our intention is to pay forward. Whenever we have the opportunity, we love to help everyone. Just like our medical business. If we know somebody who doesn’t have insurance, or they just came from Vietnam, we try to help them as much as we can. We are very involved with the Vietnamese community (and doing) whatever we can to help everybody.

We always wanted to be contributors to America, not a burden. We were so grateful to be U.S. citizens and couldn’t wait to become part of the fabric of America.


The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book

Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

which can be purchased HERE.

View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.


Related Posts

See All


bottom of page