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Mr LEE Chien

84th Congregation (2017)

Mr LEE Chien
Doctor of Social Science


World class Universities, such as The Chinese University of Hong Kong, depend for their success on a rich complexity of vision, insight, scholarship, compassion and the pursuit of excellence.  Many of these ingredients are supplied by the professors, teachers and researchers, and, of course, the students.  But the scholarly community cannot paint the whole picture.  Universities such as this one depend on those who, outside the lecture hall, the laboratory and the library devote themselves to supporting and advancing the cause of education – both for its own sake, and for the myriad benefits that it brings to society as a whole.  Our University is indeed fortunate to number amongst its supporters Mr Lee Chien.

Mr Lee has for many years been actively engaged in supporting education in and beyond Hong Kong, both in his personal capacity, as well as in his capacity as a Governor of the Lee Hysan Foundation and as Chairman of the Bei Shan Tang Foundation.  In this regard he follows the footsteps and tradition of his family whose support for this University dates back to the days of its very foundation, and physical evidence of which surrounds us today.

Mr Lee’s education and career have a strong international theme.  His early school years were at St Paul’s Co-Educational College (where, he frankly and rather modestly admits, ‘he was a very average student’).  After Primary Six he went to boarding school in  Switzerland, at Le Rosey and then to Phillips Academy in Andover in the United States where he completed his secondary school education .

His university education was undertaken entirely in the United States, and, indeed, in one university – Stanford – where he took his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematical Sciences, his Master’s degree in Operations Research and his MBA, which he completed after two years at Price Waterhouse  in San Francisco.  Following completion of his MBA in 1979, he joined the corporate finance department of Morgan Stanley in New York.  He returned to Hong Kong in 1983 to join his family’s business beginning with an appointment with its hotel operations, Lee Gardens International, working on the development of the business in mainland China.  Thereafter he was involved in a diverse range of investment activities.

Mr Lee’s business career in a sense belongs to an earlier stage in his life.  For many years now he has devoted himself to the work of a number of not-for-profit organisations, and more especially the promotion of education in and beyond Hong Kong.  His contribution to The Chinese University of Hong Kong has been generous, sustained and distinguished.  He has served on, and in many cases led, more University Committees than it would be fair to ask anyone to entertain.  His contribution has been especially important in the area of Governance, and he has served as Vice-Chairman of the University Council, as a Member of the Executive Committee of Council, and on many of the Council’s Committees and Sub-Committees.  He has not flinched from taking on sensitive tasks, such as the search for and selection of our new Vice-Chancellor, or the difficult question of reorganising the structure and composition of the Council.  In recent years he has been a strong protagonist of the development of The CUHK Medical Centre, a significant player in the Task Force that led to its establishment, and now serves as Chairman of its Board of Directors.  His commitment to this project is driven by his personal recognition that medical services in Hong Kong – currently divided between public health provision and private health provision – desperately need a ‘third way’ that, by combining public and private resources, will offer a new model of health care provision for the people of Hong Kong.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong is not the only beneficiary of Mr Lee’s commitment to education and public service.  He is especially supportive of his old school, St Paul’s Co-Educational College, where he is the Supervisor and a Trustee of The Council of St Paul’s Co-Educational College Charitable Trust. 

Outside Hong Kong he is fully engaged with Stanford University where he served as a Trustee from 1995 to 2000.  He currently serves as a member of the Board of Stanford Health Care and has also served as a member of the Board of the Stanford Alumni Association.  He has also been a member of many of the University’s Advisory Councils, including the Advisory Council of the Graduate School of Business, the Graduate School of Education, the School of Engineering and the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies.

At Phillips Academy he is a Charter Trustee and a member of their Asia Council, having also served as a member of Andover Development Board and as an Alumni Admissions Representative.

A particular passion for Mr Lee is his involvement with the Outward Bound movement.  As an organisation – both locally and internationally – Outward Bound’s mission is ‘to help people discover and develop their potential to care for themselves, others and the world around them, through challenging experiences in unfamiliar settings.’  Mr Lee has worked with Outward Bound in several capacities over the years, including 10 years as Chairman of the Executive Committee of Outward Bound Hong Kong and subsequently 10 years’ service as Vice Chairman of Outward Bound International.  Today he is especially committed to the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding, of which he is founding Chairman.  Since 2009, the Center has been developing Experiential Peacebuilding by using the Outward Bound approach of experiential learning in the outdoors to challenge and inspire leaders in divided societies to build peace.  His involvement in the Outward Bound international movement derives from his abiding interest in education.  As he says, bringing young people together in ‘the outdoors’ is not the objective; it is the medium through which they can come to realise their own potential  and to get to really know themselves as well as  others.  And through that realisation will hopefully come fulfillment of their full potential and development of compassion for others. 

So, what is it that drives Mr Lee’s commitment to education?  He shares a respect for education, learning and scholarship in its own right, which derives from his Chinese heritage.  But there is another dimension.  When the great Medieval and Renaissance Universities of Europe were being established, their founders (typically the Church) would commonly identify why learning was a noble purpose.  They certainly saw the acquisition of knowledge as showing the way to live well and happily.  But even more important was their understanding that learning had the capacity to raise up to distinction those that were born in the humblest of circumstances.  It is this capacity of education – in its many forms – to promote social mobility which appears to inspire his commitment.

For his commitment to the improvement of society through education, Mr Lee has received many honours and awards, both in Hong Kong and beyond.  He is an Honorary Fellow of this University, as well as of The Open University of Hong Kong and The Education University of Hong Kong.  He was, in 2000, the recipient of Stanford University’s ‘Gold Spike Award’ which is that University’s  highest honour for volunteer service, and is offered to only two awardees each year.  And in 2011 he received the Kurt Hahn Award from Outward Bound USA.

In light of his many contributions to the public good in Hong Kong, and beyond, it is very fitting that this University should further recognise by the award of this Honorary Degree.  Mr Chairman, it is my privilege to present to you Mr Lee Chien, for the award of the degree of Doctor of Social Science, honoris causa.