Something Extraordinary about an Ordinary Man –Wang Wei-Kuang
A foreign expert and the only person from Hainan island to win this year’s “Friendship Award” of P. R. China
Wang: “I just want to do something for my homeland”.
I have never thought of interviewing a Chinese American with my Hainanese.
On the 30th of September, a sixty-three year old Chinese American and an emeritus visiting professor from the Hainan University, Dr. Wang, Wei-Kuang won the “Friendship Award” of 2005. This is the highest honour that the State Council of People’s Republic of China confers to a foreign expert. What made Dr. Wang especially proud of himself is the fact that most of the award winners are foreigners with blond hair and green eyes while he is a native from Hainan. Although he is a US citizen, he is a “true” Hainanese.
“I will endeavour to liven up the academic atmosphere of Hainan University.”
Born in Vietnam and got his primary and secondary education there, Wang received his bachelor degree in business administration from the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) of Taiwan. He later immigrated to the US and founded a company, Wang’s Co. Ltd., which invested in the Guangdong Province. Such experience wouldn’t have been so special and legendary if he hadn’t gone on a roots-seeking journey and if he hadn’t forged a connection with Hainan University.
“I don’t know why. But when I landed here, I had a very special feelings. And my tears came out.” said Wang in 1987, when he went back to his home town for the first time to search his roots.
In 1993, he went back to Hainan island again to join a meeting for World Hainanese Associations. As he always wanted to do some thing for his hometown, when he heard of Hainan University, he knew what he could do for the place. He wanted to liven up the academic atmosphere of Hainan University, to promote the higher education of Hainan. As a NCKU alumnus, what was a better starting point than forging some kinds of academic co-operations between NCKU and Hainan University?
To achieve this purpose, Wang from then on travelled frequently between Hainan and Taiwan in many self-financed trips. Five years later, in 1998, he and Professor Kao Chiang, who was the dean of the College of Management of NCKU (and who is currently the president of the University), visited Hainan University. Two good universities from two islands, with persistent efforts from Wang, finally established a connection.
“I don’t have much money. But I am very willing to spend what I have on things like this.”
Comparing with some overseas Chinese, Wang may not be particularly well-off but he spent much time and effort, not to mention donating funds, on facilitating academic exchanges in Hainan University. To build up its reputation, he funded a foundation, the Hainan University Foundation of Scholarly Exchanges, to sponsor well-known scholars and experts from abroad and China to give lectures in Hainan University. Professors from the University were also funded to attend conferences and receive trainings overseas.
Furthermore, Wang set up a “Poor Students Supporting Funds”.
Starting from 1999, Wang taught in Hainan University, offering two courses, “Multinational Business Administration” and “Tourism Market in The USA” in the College of Business Administration and Tourism College. Living in the US, he had to travel to the University four times a year to give lectures and arrange student exchange issues. Each time, he would stay for two months and all his expenses were self-financed.
Wang’s efforts were paid off handsomely. In April 2001, the first “Cross-Strait Conference for Industry Development and Business Administration” was held in Hainan University. Well-known scholars and experts from Taiwan and China attended the conference in which fifty papers were published. This cross-strait conference, so far, has been held for four times. In September 2004, Hainan University signed an agreement on a policy of cooperation with NCKU. In September 2005, ten students from the University were sent to NCKU to study.
From being a poor student of Hainan, Wang has never stopped to achieve more. Each year, he finances poor but outstanding students from primary schools and high schools in Hainan to complete their study.
He says, “I don’t have much money. But I am very willing to spend what I have on things like this.”
“I will work harder to make myself worthy of the honour of this ‘Friendship Award’.”
“Although I am an American citizen, my roots is in Hainan, in China. I will, in my lifetime, continuously work hard to promote higher education for my homeland.” Wang said that from the moment of receiving the award, he had this resolution and sense of duty to do more. To recognise his contributions, in 2002 and 2004, the government of Hainan Province honoured him with the “Yedao Award” and “Yedao Friendship Award” respectively.
“The contribution of one person may be small,” Wang said, “but I hope more and more overseas Hainanese are willing to contribute to the development of our homeland.”
This is an ordinary story.
Wang Wei-Kuang, an overseas Chinese whose ancestor is from Hainan, was born in Vietnam. At the age of three, his father passed away. With the help of his hard-working mother and relatives as well as his own part-time job, he completed his senior high school education. Sponsored by the government, he came to Taiwan to study Industrial Engineering and Management in the NCKU. Working part-time, he supported himself and obtained his bachelor degree from the University. He then got married and moved to the US. After 20 years of hardworking, he was finally financially secured.
This Chinese American who speaks with strong native accent of Hainan had never been back to his hometown, but he had never forgotten where his roots is. To search his roots, he went back to Hainan. Smelling the soil of his homeland and seeing the life of his fellow villagers, he found children with a similar fate to that of his own in childhood. Thinking back in time, he knew that he would never had had the success of today if it had not been for the help of his fellow villagers. From the moment on, he decided to help those children, opening up a window of opportunity for them.
Throw A Sprat to Catch a Whale
Considering the financial resources of his, Wang knew that he might not be able to go very far on his own. However, he hoped to throw a sprat to catch a whale. By starting to do some things with his limited resources, he hoped to move more people to help develop his homeland. With years of frequent visits to the place, he finally found his point of entry, the Hainan University.
At the time, Hainan was not a rich province and the only university there is Hainan University, which ranked not very high among the Chinese universities. Wang’s plan was to raise the academic standard of the University and to train good graduates to help develop the province. This was an ambitious project, indeed! However, with only he himself, could this project get going?
According to his analysis, Hainan University needed to improve three aspects: students’ quality, teaching quality and academic exchange. He drew plans and took actions to address the three issues. To help attract outstanding students to continue their tertiary education, he set up a scholarship for students with financial difficulty. To improve teaching quality, he himself joined the University to take on teaching with dedication, as what he had learned from the teachers of NCKU. To increase academic exchange with other universities, he went back to his alma mater, NCKU, to seek for assistance. He invited scholars from NCKU to give lectures and attend conferences in Hainan University. He also arranged students of Hainan University to study in NCKU.
What is more, by overcoming many political difficulties, he made it possible for the two universities to jointly hold an academic conference.
Be Pragmatic, Modest and Generous
His efforts were paid off after four years of persistent hardworking. Students’ quality and teaching standard were improved and donation started to flow to the University. Furthermore, the University was ranked among the top one hundred of China’s best universities. In 2002, jointly organised with NCKU, the 2nd Cross-Strait Conference for Industry Development and Business Administration was held in Tainan in which more than one hundred scholars attended and more than eighty papers were published. To thank Wang for his contributions, in 2002, Hainan University invited him to become an emeritus visiting professor and the Hainan government awarded him with the highest honour a foreigner can obtain, the Yedao Award.
Though his contributions were recognised, Wang still thought that what he had done was just a starting point. He hoped that more capable people would continue what he had done for Hainan University. Besides, he also thought that he needed to do some things for his hometown, Wen Chan county in Hainan. Returning to Wen Chan, he set up a scholarship to assist primary and secondary school students who have financial difficulty. He said that regardless their academic achievements, all students with financial problem were eligible to apply for the scholarship.
His assistance again moved the heart of locals. In 2004, he received his second Yedao Award. In September 2005, when he returned to his home in Hainan, he found a letter from the Chinese government to invite him to receive his “Friendship Award”. Wang was excited and felt honoured. He had never dreamed of having the honour to receive such a national award.
For more than ten years, his contributions to the Hainan University and to his hometown are countless. Some have estimated that the money he donated might exceed two million RMB. And his total income from Hainan, for the past ten years, is RMB400, which was the prize money of being voted as the best teacher by students.
Several million dollar of RMB may not be a huge sum. These money, however, were saved bit by bit by Wang from his own daily expenses.
Yes, this is an ordinary story, a story of roots-seeking, a story of dedication, a story of success and after all, a story of Wang Wei-Kuang. Wei-Kuang, we are proud of you and honoured of knowing you!!
“This article was provided by Professor Wang Wei-Kuang and was published on the Hainan Daily in October 2005.