The University of Hong Kong celebrated its Fourth Inauguration of Endowed Professorships on April 13.
Endowed Professorships at HKU are created to provide perpetual support to areas of academic excellence. It is also a privileged honour bestowed upon our distinguished academics. With a close partnership between the academe and generous philanthropists, Endowed Professorships represent a promise to scale new levels of commitment to society and to humankind.
Each Endowed Professorship is established with a generous donation of HK$10 million or more which will be matched by the University with an equal amount. The interests generated by the $20 million endowment will be used to support the respective area of academic excellence. A total of 41 Endowed Professorships have been established at HKU since 2005.
At the ceremony, Professor Malik Peiris, Tam Wah-Ching Professor in Medical Science, representing HKU to thank all the donors and supporters of the University:
“Pro-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour and privilege to represent my fellow Endowed Professors in extending a Message of Thanks to our donors for their generosity of spirit and to their commitment to fostering learning and research excellence within this University.
Universities are at the cutting edge of generating new knowledge. A Chinese proverb says that ‘Learning that does not daily increase will daily decrease’. The resource requirements that enable research excellence cannot completely be met from public funding. Universities thrive on community partnerships and endowed professorships are a manifestation of such support.
The Ceremony today brings together philanthropists from far and wide, from diverse backgrounds; families whose dynasties span centuries and those who are self-made entrepreneurs or professionals, all who have made remarkable contributions to our society. Their benevolence has already helped many. In creating these endowed professorships, you are indeed following in a long tradition that goes back almost two thousand years.
The Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius created endowed Chairs in Athens for each of the major schools of philosophy. In the 16th Century, the Countess of Richmond created the first endowed chairs in divinity at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. But this is still a very young tradition in Hong Kong and Asia in general.
At The University of Hong Kong, the first Endowed Professorships of our era were established in 2005 and 41 such Professorships and two Distinguished Visiting Professorship schemes have been established since then; 5 in Social Sciences, 4 in Law, 3 in Business and Economics, 2 each in Arts, Science and Engineering, 1 in Dentistry and 22 in Medicine. This diversity is indeed mirrored tonight – this ceremony highlights 7 Faculties of the University; namely, Arts, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Science and Social Sciences.
Your philanthropy is indeed trail-blazing and far-sighted, and goes toward providing self-sustaining support to foster areas of academic excellence far into the future. There are also some “firsts” tonight: the very first Endowed Professorship in the Faculty of Dentistry and the first cross-disciplinary Endowed Professorship spanning the Humanities and Medicine.
There are also examples of benefactors who have endowed more than one Professorship. Professor Samaranayake and I have the honour today to receive Endowed Professorships in Dental Science and Medical Science respectively, both endowed by Dr Tam Wah-ching. Co-incidentally, both of us hail from the Island of Sri Lankans and were classmates at University.
Speaking on behalf of all 10 colleagues of mine who have been bestowed Endowed Professorships today, I wish to sincerely thank our benefactors. We are honoured by your support and humbled by your generosity. Academic excellence is of course not achieved in isolation and your recognition goes beyond the 10 of us – it extends towards many of our colleagues, collaborators and students, who share in this honour and will benefit from your support. The torch will be passed on and your generosity will indeed continue to nurture many generations of academics, teachers and researchers at HKU in the future.
May I take this opportunity to thank my own research team members, research collaborators and students, many of whom are here today – this award is also an award for each of you. I am sure my colleagues share the same sentiments.
In conclusion, I wish also to thank everyone here this evening for joining us on this memorable day.”
For the list of the Endowed Professorships presented at the Fourth Inauguration please click here. Background information and photos of the Endowed Professors are available at http://www.hku.hk/ephku/.