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The School Leavers

Mr. Terence Chan (Photo by Cheung Wai-lok)
Mr. David Lim (Photo by Cheung Wai-lok)
Mr. K.C. Yuen (Photo by Cheung Wai-lok)
Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellors, and Master of College including, Prof. Michael K.M. Hui (2nd left), Prof. Fok Tai-fai (2nd right), Prof. Fanny M.C. Cheung (3rd right), Prof. Fung Tung (1st left), Prof. Dennis K.P. Ng (1st right), and Prof. Kenneth Young (3rd left) attending the farewell party of Mr. Terence Chan (4th left) and Mr. K.C. Yuen (4th right)
Mr. Lim with his wife (right) and daughter
Mr. Lim's souvenir for guests—his calligraphy

As the new academic year begins, the campus is abuzz with life again. But three once-familiar faces will be missing from the crowd—Mr. Terence Chan, Bursar; Mr. David Lim, Director of Campus Development; and Mr. K.C. Yuen, Acting Director of Personnel. Having served the University for almost 70 years in total, they have stepped down from the frontlines and entered a new stage of life. On this day, they exchange stories, recalling how they joined CUHK, and discuss life after retirement.

It has been a month since your retirement. Do you miss anything?

Chan: I worked at the University for 23 years. The average working lifespan is about 40 years. This means I spent half of my working life at CUHK, a place that filled me with memories—happy ones, unforgettable ones, difficult ones…. I am going to really miss it, but it's fine. The campus is open to all. I'll come back from time to time to say hello. My wife and daughter are CUHK alumni too. My ties with the University won't be stopping here.

Lim: I was in the building, hotel management and logistics industry for years, but I enjoyed my 15-year service at CUHK the most. Of course, it's hard to bid farewell. I appreciate the support from my colleagues and would never forget the battles we fought. I hope my colleagues will scale new heights under the leadership of the new director.

Yuen: I feel the same way as Mr. Chan. I worked for the University for 31 years. It's a long time! I don't miss working but I miss the people here—the comrades and colleagues with whom I worked closely over the years.

Recalling how he joined CUHK, Mr. Chan said, 'My joining was a coincidence. It was in 1984 and I, then quite young, saw the University's recruitment ad. It was an opportunity for a career promotion. I also wanted to try working in an academic institution. Six years later, I resigned and joined China Light & Power Company. In 1996, Prof. Arthur K.C. Li, former Vice-Chancellor, invited me to take up the post of Bursar, succeeding Mr. David Gilkes. After serious consideration, I agreed and regarded the rejoining as a commitment to serve until my retirement.'

Mr. Yuen's story was similar. Upon graduation from CUHK in 1977, he worked in Heung Yee Kuk N.T. and later the Hong Kong Polytechnic. Then he learnt that the University was recruiting and thought it was not a bad idea to serve his alma mater.

'I applied for the post with the intention of retiring,' revealed Mr. Lim. He had already retired in 1997, but feeling bored, decided to find easier work to kill time. 'I saw a recruitment ad for the directorship of the Estates Management Office at CUHK. I applied and got the job. Before I reported to duty, Prof. Arthur K.C. Li persuaded me to take up the post of chief architect of the Campus Development Office (CDO) instead. Since I was trained as an architect, I gladly accepted, only to find out that the job was far from easy.'

What was your first day of work like?

Chan: The first day of my rejoining was unforgettable. I was supposed to resume duty on the 16th, but I was requested to start work a day in advance, i.e., the 15th. It was because an important and long-standing benefactor of the University had passed away, and the funeral service was held on the 15th. The University would like me to attend the funeral as Bursar.

Lim: I found the interior design, layout and furnishings very old-fashioned when I stepped into the office, as if I had gone back to Shanghai of the 1930s. As an architect, I was sensitive to the layout and design, so I decided to modernize the University's offices. I started with the CDO, before moving on to other offices to revitalize these spaces.

Yuen: I didn't have unusual experiences like Mr. Chan's. On my first day of work at CUHK, I familiarized myself with my duties which was handling the recruitment of Terms of Service (B) and (C) staff. What impressed me most were my colleagues. They helped me a lot in understanding the procedures and details.

The three men may have different first-day experiences, but when it came to their favourite corner on campus, all three picked the same places—the courtyard of the Institute of Chinese Studies and the Pavilion of Harmony at the New Asia College. Mr. Yuen likes the courtyard because it is quiet yet enlivened by colourful koi in the pond. If time allowed, he would pass through the courtyard when having to attend a meeting at the University Administration Building. Mr. Chan loved to hang out there at lunch break. Mr. Lim gave a professional view, 'The courtyard is a masterpiece by Mr. I.M. Pei, renowned architect, and the late Dr. Szeto Wai, former University Architect. It's the kind of design that will never go out of date.' The pavilion is well-integrated into its surroundings. When viewed from a certain angle, the reflection of the sky on the pond is seamlessly connected with the sea.

How did you spend your last day of work at CUHK?

Chan: I had a meeting in the morning. After lunch, I took photos and said goodbye to colleagues. There was another meeting at 3:30 pm. In other words, I spent my last two working hours at CUHK at a meeting! I was bewildered. It turned out that the meeting was a surprise farewell party. In attendance were Mr. Yuen, colleagues from the Bursary and other units. I was moved.

Yuen: I worked as usual and took pictures with colleagues. A farewell party was held at our office in the afternoon. Then I had to attend a meeting. I thought it would be a perfect wrap-up of my time at the University as it was supposed to end at 5:30 pm. But it turned out to be a farewell party. Like Mr. Chan, I was moved.

Lim: My story is slightly different from Mr. Chan's and Mr. Yuen's. The farewell party was held weeks ago at the Hyatt Regency, Sha Tin. I felt really honoured that some 120 guests attended including colleagues, consultants from our partner-companies, and staff from CUHK, Shenzhen. As a token of my gratitude, I gave each guest a few lines of poetry written in my Chinese calligraphy as a souvenir.

It was a really busy day. I had a meeting at 8:30 am. As there were some unexpected happenings, an ad hoc meeting had to be convened. That day was also my 34th wedding anniversary. I planned to have lunch with my wife. As a result, she had to wait until the meeting ended. I continued to work afterwards. At 5:30 pm, I stopped working and said goodbye to colleagues. After that, I continued to write the handover memo which I had begun months ago. At about 8:30 pm, the task was completed and I had dinner with my family to celebrate the anniversary. My wife and I returned to office again after dinner to pack up my belongings. But I had so much stuff that, despite her help, the packing went on until 2:30 am. I asked her to leave first, and I stayed behind to send e-mails allocating different responsibilities to different individuals. I left after 3:00 am.

What are your short-term and long-term retirement plans?

Chan: I intend to spend time on three things. First is rendering voluntary services such as being a senior adviser and a member of the University Council's Finance Committee, and its sub-committee, the Investment Committee; senior tutor of Shaw College; chairman of the Finance Committee of the Scout Association of Hong Kong; and treasurer of the Hong Kong University Graduates Association Education Foundation. Second, I'll make financial investments to guarantee capital and general income, and I'll exercise more to stay healthy. Third, I'll spend time on my hobbies and my family. I love singing especially Cantonese opera but I am not good at it. I plan on learning it again. I'll also spare some time for practising Chinese calligraphy, travelling, reading, accompanying my wife, and playing with my grandchildren.

Lim: I engage in quite a number of voluntary services outside CUHK, e.g., serving partner schools in Hong Kong and Macau, mainland organizations, the HKSAR government, and the international voluntary summer English programme set up by myself and my wife on the mainland. I'll carry on such work. My wife will retire next year, so we'll have more time to do what we like.

Yuen: It's very simple. To me, retirement means stepping down from work and resting. I would love to travel more when I am still healthy. In the past, I was reluctant to exercise. Now there are no more excuses. I plan to swim, hike and pick up fishing again, a hobby I set aside for over 20 years. I love photography too. I hope to take photos that I'm happy with in the future.

These men may have joined the University by chance, but the seeds of friendship sown have blossomed into lush and sturdy trees. Though they have retired, we're sure their faces will be seen on campus from time to time.