MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Kao Ly Ilean Her, the first Hmong woman admitted to the Minnesota Bar Association, died Thursday in Saint Paul at 52 years old.
The daughter of Bee Yang Her and Chad Vua Her, Ilean was a member of the Minnesota Hmong community and a committed activist for Asian Americans.
Her graduated from Hamline University with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. Three years later she received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Minnesota Law School.
For over 15 years, Ilean served as Executive Director of the Council for Asian Pacific Minnesotans. In recent years she led Hmong Elders Center and provided much needed services for Hmong seniors across the Twin Cities and partnered with numerous arts and neighborhood organizations to promote cross-cultural learning.
In 2019, Ilean was the first Hmong person to be elected to a six-year term by the Minnesota Legislature to serve as a regent of the University of Minnesota.
University President Joan Gabel released a statement following the news of Ilean’s death.
“I am heartbroken to learn about Ilean’s passing,” Gabel said. “She was such a strong advocate for the University of Minnesota and for all members of our University community. And for me personally, I sincerely appreciated the warmth of her welcome to me when I became president shortly after she joined the Board of Regents. Her service to the entire state of Minnesota, and in particular to Minnesota’s Hmong and Asian American Pacific Islander communities, is well known and celebrated. All of us at the University of Minnesota are proud to count her as an alum, as an advocate and as a friend, and we are inspired to carry on her service in all that we do. We send our very best wishes to her loved ones as they celebrate her life and legacy.”
Board of Regents Chair Ken Powell said Ilean’s death is a “significant loss of a strong voice for diversity and inclusion in the Minnesota communities the University serves.”
A funeral will be held on June 5 and 6 at the Legacy Funeral Home East Chapel, 255 Eaton Street in St. Paul.
In lieu of flowers, Her’s family is asking for memorials to be directed to the Kao Ly Ilean Her Memorial Scholarship Fund at Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together.
A GoFundMe account has also been started to donate to the memorial scholarship.