75th Congregation (2013)
Dr. Ronnie Chichung CHAN
A business veteran who devotes his time to education; a world visionary with a love for China and the United States; an advocate for tradition who encourages innovation; a global citizen who traverses seamlessly between East and West; a patron who acts with conviction; a courageous leader who speaks without fear. A business luminary and a pillar of society. Dr Ronnie Chan is a native of Shunde, Guangdong, and was born in 1949 to Mr Chan Tseng-hsi, founder of Hang Lung Group Limited. Dr Chan received his early education in Hong Kong and furthered his studies in the United States of America, where he acquired an MBA from the University of Southern California and made his own mark. In 1972, he was appointed member of the Board of Directors of Hang Lung Group Limited and joined the management team in 1980. He became Executive Director of the company in 1986, and in 1991 succeeded his uncle Thomas Chen Tseng-tao as Chairman of the Group. Under his leadership, Hang Lung Group grew from strength to strength, and capitalised on business opportunities in Mainland China, bearing witness to Hong Kong’s reunification with China in 1997, and weathering a series of crises such as the Asian financial turmoil and SARS. Hang Lung Group is well poised for the 21st century, with its investments and businesses now spread across Mainland China’s major cities, and its signature plazas under the ‘66’ brand in Shanghai, Shenyang, Jinan and Wuxi have all become landmarks of those cities. Hang Lung’s success in Mainland China is hailed as the “Hang Lung Phenomenon”, epitomising modern China’s movement towards a new era and the internationalisation of its cities. In 1986, Dr Chan, together with his brother Dr Gerald Chan Lok-chung, founded the Morningside Group. The group is a diversified international investment group, developing and contributing significantly to the transfer of technological and biomedical knowledge, and to venture capital investment. In Mainland China alone, Morningside Group’s long-term investments in areas like life sciences and media communications have become a driving force behind China’s high-tech industry. Business aside, Dr Chan also devotes himself to promoting education and nurturing talents. In addition to making generous donations, Dr Chan also keeps a vibrant speaking schedule, delivering more than a hundred lectures every year around the globe. He has declined invitations from the government to serve the office of Council Chairman for a number of local universities, and has instead devoted his time to classroom teaching as well as to personally meeting and interacting with students across a variety of platforms, sharing his experience and knowledge with them. He is a member of the governing or advisory boards, or holds adjunct professorships, at a number of universities, including the University of Southern California, Yale University, Stanford University, the Indian School of Business, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, Nanjing University, Zhejiang University, China Foreign Affairs University, and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. In Hong Kong, the Mainland and overseas, Dr Chan is an active supporter in tertiary education endeavors, as exemplified in the Zhejiang University Morningside Cultural China Scholars Program, which nurtures top-notch Mainland Chinese students to become future leaders, and Morningside Music Bridge, a classical music summer program in Canada for promising young Chinese musicians. In 1998, together with Professor Yau Shing-tung, a Fields Medalist and Distinguished Professor-at-Large of CUHK, he established the triennial “Morningside Medal of Mathematics” to recognize outstanding young Chinese mathematicians around the world. Dr Chan has a special affection for The Chinese University of Hong Kong as well. In 2004, Dr Chan and Professor Yau Shing-tung set up the Hang Lung Mathematics Awards. The competition is co-organized by Hang Lung Properties, the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and the Department of Mathematics of CUHK, which aims to encourage secondary school students and teachers to realise their full creative potential in mathematics and science by stimulating their passion for intellectual discovery through research. In 2006, the Chan brothers donated over 100 million dollars through the Morningside Foundation and the Morningside Education Foundation to help CUHK set up a new college, and participated in the college planning process. Today, Morningside College sits on a knoll within the campus, overlooking Ma On Shan and Tolo Harbour. This residential college provides its 300 students with a pleasant environment, full accommodation, communal dining facilities, as well as quality education, offering a novel education model in addition to CUHK’s existing college system. In addition to promoting education and nurturing talents, Dr Chan also devotes his time to the preservation of culture and heritage, and completed two landmark projects in the past two decades. He established the China Heritage Fund with a mission to preserve and restore cultural relics throughout China which are of historic significance. Through the China Heritage Fund, Dr Chan rebuilt and restored Jianfu Palace Garden and Zhongzheng Dian within Beijing’s Forbidden City. This project spanned 18 years, from the 1990s to 2005 when Jianfu Palace Garden was completed, and 2012 when Zhongzheng Dian was completed. The second landmark project, which took 13 years to complete, was the restoration of the Explosives Magazine in Hong Kong, a British arsenal built in mid-19th century in the Mid-levels. This site is now home to Asia Society Hong Kong Center, and is open to the public for the first time in history. Dr Chan channeled tremendous resources - financial and otherwise - to these two restoration projects, from inception to implementation, from the strategic to the specific. These cultural projects underscore Dr Chan’s interest in preserving heritage, but more so his belief that we should learn from the lessons of history. The reason that he, as an ordinary citizen, took on the project to restore Jianfu Palace Garden and Zhongzheng Dian within the Forbidden City, was because he felt the rubble and desolation of the site, remnants of the country’s humiliation of the past, has no place in a country which is thriving in the present. He remarked, “The destruction of cultural objects is a testament to a country’s fall, while the restoration of them is a testament to its revival.” At present, China Heritage Fund is researching on another collaboration project with the Palace Museum. In Hong Kong, Dr Chan is known for his forthright manner and speaking his mind. A public intellectual who is not afraid to think the ‘unthinkable,’ he frequently appears in local and international forums and publishes widely in the West and the East, commenting on economic and political affairs with clarity and exceptional insight. Dr Chan’s sharp, at times biting, comments sometimes offend the movers and shakers, but they are nonetheless conscionable. He has assumed leadership roles or has otherwise actively participated in numerous local and international think-tanks, such as National Committee on United States- China Relations, East-West Center, Pacific Council on International Policy, Peterson Institute for International Economics and World Economic Forum, interacting with world renowned academicians, business, political and opinion leaders. He is a global co-chair of Asia Society and chairs its Hong Kong Center. In Hong Kong, he is chairman of the executive committees of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute and of the Better Hong Kong Foundation, and convenor of the Hong Kong Development Forum. In recognition of his contributions to preserving Chinese culture and fostering talents, of his belief in the “Morningside Education”, and of his generous support for CUHK, Mr Chairman, I have the great honour of presenting to you Dr Ronnie Chichung Chan, for the award of the degree of Doctor of Social Science, honoris causa.