I Am Tri Delta: Arlene Chan
Trident | May 21, 2016

In this series of articles, we feature several members who make up our amazing sisterhood. They all come from different backgrounds and have different passions and talents, but they all share one commonality: They are Tri Delta.

In early May in Toronto, Arlene Lumb Chan, Toronto, will take to the water. In 2016, the 65-year-old will begin her 16th year of dragon boat racing as she competes with a local team.

The retired librarian and author — who has won eight gold medals at two World Dragon Boat Racing Championships — discovered her passion for the sport entirely by chance.

Growing up in Toronto, Arlene spent her summers helping out at her parents’ restaurant in Chinatown. Her mother, Jean Lumb, was a leader in Toronto’s Chinese community and was the first Chinese-Canadian to receive the Order of Canada — the highest civilian honor — for her achievements in changing immigration laws.

In 1970, around the time Arlene began studying at the University of Toronto, Tri Delta’s Canada Alpha Chapter invited her mother to speak to the chapter about the Chinese community. Arlene knew little about fraternity life, but at her mother’s urging, she attended a few recruitment meetings. She loved the feel of Tri Delta and knew it was a perfect fit.

While she was a student, Arlene discovered an interest in writing short stories. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in English and psychology, she completed her master’s degree in library science. A career as a librarian followed. As Arlene married and had her two sons, she put her writing on hold.

Then in 1997, a publisher approached her about writing a children’s book about her mother, “The Spirit of the Dragon: The Story of Jean Lumb, a Proud Chinese Canadian.” Two years later, the same publisher asked her to write a book on the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.

But it was during her research for her third book, “Awakening the Dragon: The Dragon Boat Festival” that Arlene discovered the sport of dragon boat racing.

“Dragon boat racing is part of the Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated by Chinese around the world — usually in May,” explains Arlene. “Racing itself dates back to more than 2,000 years…dragon boat races were held by fishermen and village people to appease the river dragon and to ensure there would be enough rain.”

Today dragon boat racing is an international sport and one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. In her quest to learn more about the ancient tradition, Arlene asked a friend who was a dragon boat racer if she could experience the dragon boat in action.

“I asked if I could jump in back of the boat,” remembers Arlene. “It’s one thing to read about something but to actually experience what it would be like to be in a dragon boat was very important.”

As soon as Arlene began paddling, she was hooked.

Arlene started off on a local team but advanced to competitive racing after a couple of years. In 2010, she tried out and was selected for Canada’s national dragon boat racing team for women over 50. In 2011, the team competed in the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Florida and won a gold medal in every event.

She competed on the national team again in 2013, this time in Hungary. The team again won four gold medals.

Today, Arlene continues to compete with her local team, and she has no intentions of slowing down any time soon. In the midst of writing full time and training for races, Arlene also still enjoys time with her Tri Delta sisters; she’s part of a group that gets together every month, and it’s a friendship she treasures.

“This is a very cherished group that started with my years at Tri Delta, and if I hadn’t joined I wouldn’t have these friends. We have so many shared memories, we’ve helped each other when we were raising our families, we are a support for each other. This Tri Delta friendship has been a lifelong friendship, and it’s very special to me.”

There are more than 200,000 Tri Deltas around the world who make up our sisterhood. Tri Delta wants to hear from YOU! What makes you unique? Tell us on social media using the hashtag #IAmTriDelta.



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