Information Services Office   19.1.2012

391

Prof. Fung Kwok-pui
 
Newsletter No. 391 > Thus Spake... > Prof. Fung Kwok-pui, Head of United College

Prof. Fung Kwok-pui, Head of United College

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What was school like when you were an undergraduate at CUHK?

I went to United College (UC) during the late sixties to read chemistry, and classes were held on our premises on Bonham Road before we moved to the Sha Tin campus. The old campus was small but fully equipped, with adequate laboratories and recreational facilities. I played a lot of ball games in those days, sometimes with our teachers, which did help to promote friendship between academics and students. Later we moved to Sha Tin and I was among the first students accommodated in the Adam Schall Residence. In those days the facilities in the hostel really did not compare with those that students enjoy today. Today we have a larger campus, and with relatively more space interpersonal relationship becomes more distant than before, which is what UC strives to preserve and deliver to its students.

How do you see your role as the Head of UC?

The headship cannot be regarded as a mere administrative calling, and not recognizing this point will result in a good deal of undesirable gaps and voids between the Head and the students, and even colleagues. I see the work of the Head as a part of my teaching. It enables me to create an additional dimension to teaching, quite outside of the classroom, where I can work fully for the sake of the education of the students, and where their interests are given the first priority. It gives me a great sense of fulfilment to see successive generations of students growing up. Since I both teach and do research, I have to divide my time in an effective manner, and I will make use of the evenings to participate in the activities of the students, some of which are held in the hostels. Teachers who have newly arrived at CUHK are also the focus of my attention. Giving them the assistance and support they need to integrate with life at the College, and providing the resources to enable them to settle in comfortably and happily on campus, are important aspects of my work as College Head.

What are the characteristics of UC students in your view?

The motto of the College is ‘ming de xin min’, where ‘ming de’ refers to learning and ‘xin min’ pertains to the ethical. I believe that the students and graduates of UC have done remarkably well in both aspects, serving the community with solid knowledge of their respective disciplines, and an enthusiasm inspired by an admirable civic spirit. And not only that: while they are apt to be practical, they also seek to be creative. Take for example what our students demonstrated in the issues regarding the management of the hostels, and we could have a glimpse of their ability to maintain equity and broad-mindedness in their views, their willingness to respect opinions from all sides, and an audacity to propose extraordinary measures in the way of solutions. In the context of the milieu of our society, these are rare and valuable qualities.

What does the College hope to achieve through the 55th anniversary celebrations?

We have three objectives. The first is to raise the students’ academic standards, which explains why we are mounting a good number of seminars, as well as cultural functions. There are also many events initiated and organized by the students. The second is to celebrate the achievements and contributions of members of UC: former Vice-Chancellor Prof. Charles K. Kao, the former UC Heads, and many retired professors have all played significantly facilitative roles in the development of the College, and the 55th anniversary provides an appropriate occasion for us to remember their dedication and to celebrate their great deeds. The third is to strengthen our liaison with alumni: last October, graduates who left the College 25 and 35 years ago were invited back to meet with their teachers and the wardens of the hostels in their days, to the great enjoyment of everyone. We are planning to organize a home-coming camp for alumni in the summer of 2012.

It has been ten years since you took up the Headship of UC. What would you count as your major achievements as you look back?

I would not boast of great achievements, but there are quite a few matters with which I am particularly pleased. Shortly after I took up office as Head, a committee similar to a cabinet was formed under the Assembly of Fellows. This group comprises colleagues who share the same convictions and ideals in college education. Together with administrators who form the backbone of the College Office, three Associate College Heads and six wardens, we worked hard for the advancement of the College. I have also put in a lot of effort to promote our links with alumni and to enhance their allegiance to the College. In this I might have had a little advantage as an alumnus myself, and having been engaged in the work of the alumni association. There are some noticeable achievements in enlisting qualified alumni as mentors, in inviting alumni to share their experience with students, in seeking internships for students, and in canvassing donations and gifts. I have also helped to institute alumni interactions and networking on the horizontal level.

What are your major research interests?

My primary research interest is on the biochemical pathology of cancer, especially on research related to the glucose transporter. In the past decade or so research on Chinese medicine has grown tremendously and, with the more systematic study of the subject through the establishment of the Institute of Chinese Medicine at CUHK, I am now concentrating on the elicitation of drugs to combat cancer from Chinese medicine.

How do you manage to keep your proverbial smile despite your busy and heavy workload?

I think it is very important to be light-hearted at all times, and keep a balanced life. In the early morning I will take a walk along the sea front near where I live, and on campus I will walk, the best I can, from one meeting to another, which is a healthy practice and ecologically sound too. More recently, my wife and I take part in organic farming activities on Sundays, which is another way of getting closer to Nature.

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