Information Services Office   4.6.2012


Prof. Rance P.L. Lee
Newsletter No. 399 > Thus Spake… > Prof. Rance P.L. Lee, Master, Wu Yee Sun College

Prof. Rance P.L. Lee, Master, Wu Yee Sun College


What lulled you from retirement in 2009 to become master of a new College?

In mid-2007, the University appointed me as a member of the Planning Committee for Wu Yee Sun College. The following year, Prof. Lawrence J. Lau, then Vice-Chancellor, proposed that I be the Founding Master of the College but I declined. Just before the summer holidays in 2009, he brought it up again. I thought, I am an alumnus of CUHK and have taught here for many years. I am fully aware of the importance of the collegiate system to the University. Establishing the new Colleges is a necessity as the student population will surge in 2012. If not done properly, it would do serious damage to the collegiate system and to CUHK. As Professor Lau said, I should capitalize on my 10 years of experience as the Head of Chung Chi College, my extensive network built over some 40 years here, and use my personal assets to attract people who would join me in running a new College for the University. I had the support of my wife and my family. After that summer, I agreed to take up the job.

What will Wu Yee Sun College do to welcome its first cohort of students in 2012?

Due to slope stabilization and tree transplantation, works on the College campus have to take a little longer. Things are going to be tough for the first batch of 318 students. Half would need to take temporary shelter at International House, the remaining would have neither hostel nor campus for a while. But a little suffering is good for young people. When Chung Chi was founded, it held classes in the basement of a church, while New Asia College had almost nothing. But when their alumni talk about the experience, they are always filled with pride. The present setbacks are the stuff of good memories. The experience of the first students will help us to improve and define the future of the College. Their role is irreplaceable. In the year when facilities are inadequate, the College will organize different activities to help students bond, including creative workshops, high-table lectures, seminars, forums, overseas and local schemes on service-learning, and exchange opportunities. Their College lives will not be boring.

What do you expect to see in the students of Wu Yee Sun College?

I hope they will be keen on learning, hardy and persistent; possess the scientific spirit of acquiring knowledge through practice and thinking critically; eager to innovate; sincere and visionary; caring towards society, striving to maintain justice, helping the weak and the needy in society; passionate about protecting the environment; possess interest and taste in art and culture.

How do you see the impact of the new Colleges on the collegiate tradition of CUHK?

It will add diversity to the scale, form and concept of the University’s collegiate system. The old Colleges are larger in physical size and accommodate at least 2,000 or 3,000 students. The smaller of the new Colleges can only house 300 or 600 students. The medium-sized ones such as Lee Woo Sing and us, 1,200 or 1,300. Some adopt communal dining. Chung Chi is rooted in the love of God; New Asia in Confucian ethics; United in pragmatism; and Shaw in service to society. The new Colleges also have different orientations. S.H. Ho College emphasizes the concept of ‘home’; Lee Woo Sing College, harmonious relations; Morningside, internationalism; and CW Chu, the pursuit of knowledge and an altruistic spirit. We attach importance to innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit with social responsibility. Diversity enriches the choices available to students, imparting to graduates different skills and flair that will enable them to make their influences felt in more areas of society.

The establishment of new Colleges would inevitably heighten competition among the Colleges, but it would also stimulate creativity and foster unprecedented synergy, allowing us to progress together.

How will your reputable profile in community services impact on your work as College Master?

My 40-plus years of experience developing social services in medicine and health, social welfare, public order and correctional services, and education policy and development have made me realize the prevalence and complexity of social problems. As a teacher, I have a duty to guide students to understand, care about, and participate in society; to steer clear of clichés, and tap into their creativity and passion to solve different problems. My work in the public sector has also allowed me to get to know people from different walks and invite them to share with the students their unique views and experiences.

What would you have done if you didn’t need to lead the new College?

At the beginning of my retirement, I was relaxed and revitalized. My step was light and I felt free in my brightly-coloured casual outfits. I should have travelled more with my buddies while my health was still good, played sports, launched my plan to read novels, essays and books on history, and finished the research for several theses that I haven’t had time to write, and a book on the research methods of sociology to wrap up my academic life. And if Chung Chi College or the Department of Sociology needed my service, I should have readily responded. Now, I’m afraid I’ll have to wait till my retirement in 2016 to fulfill these wishes.

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