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Andy Matsui: Investing in the future, appreciating the past

The surprise success of Andy Matsui’s gamble to transition his company to growing Phalaenopsis orchids more than 15 years ago also gave the company’s founder and president a new mission in life.

Born in Japan, Matsui traveled to the United States in 1961 to participate in a one-year Farm Bureau training program. He soon moved permanently to California with his wife and first daughter. Matsui sought out information, educating himself about flower growing and learning from others. He even wrote a book about growing mums. In 1969, Matsui bought 50 acres of land just outside Salinas, CA, and put up his greenhouses. He grew chrysanthemums, then roses. Nearly 30 years later, Matsui traveled the world researching and mastering the techniques of growing orchids. In 1998, he took a chance and transitioned all Matsui Nursery’s greenhouses to growing orchids and became a pioneer in the industry. Today, Matsui,  78, continues to lead the company he founded 48 years ago. It’s evident that he loves his work, and is in the office seven days a week.

MATSUI-214Andy MatsuiMatsui’s rise to success has given him the opportunity to become a local hero and philanthropist. In Po Bronson’s book, Why Do I Love These People?, Matsui asks “Whom do I really owe? To whom am I indebted?” The answer was in his heart. He loved his company and the people who worked for him, most of whom were Mexican immigrants in the very situation he was in forty years ago.

Matsui has always valued education. He sent all four of his children to Harvard so they had the tools to succeed in life. His sons are respected doctors and his daughters are successful businesswomen. Creating a scholarship foundation was a natural part of the evolution for Matsui, he said. In 2004, the Matsui Foundation awarded its first scholarship to a student from Gonzales High School — the very high school from which his daughters graduated. Since that first scholarship, the foundation has provided more than $5 million in scholarships to 146 students from Monterey County high schools and community colleges.

The scholarships assist students who have excelled in school but whose financial circumstances would prevent them from them from pursuing their academic and professional ambitions. “The goal of the Matsui Foundation is to educate and inspire students to become leaders in our community,” Matsui said.

Today, the Matsui Foundation awards 24 qualified students each year with $30,000-scholarships to pursue a bachelor of science degree in computer science and informational technology through an accelerated, three-year cohort program with Hartnell College and California State University-Monterey Bay. “By concentrating our scholarships in the high-demand field of computer science, we’re providing students with the tools to succeed, and we’re investing in the local economy and our region.” Matsui said.

“Education has always been important to me and I am so grateful for all of those that have been involved with my education and company’s success,” Matsui said. “The foundation is my way of giving back to not only the people who helped me get to where I am today, but also to their children and future generations.”