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Stronger With Time

Dec. 16, 2010

By Randy Fiedler


Though not uncommon at Baylor today, international students face hurdles most American students never consider. Far from home (and family), students from other countries must learn a new culture and perhaps even a new language, all on top of the usual adjustments to college life.

Now imagine what that must have been like 50 years ago, before air travel was common and affordable, before cell phones and Skype made long-distance communication easier, and before the Internet made it simple to keep up with what was going on back home.

In the late 1950s, Daniel Tse, James Wong and Clement Young each made their way to Baylor from China via Hong Kong. Their time at Baylor prepared them for future leadership -- one a university president, one the chair of a billion dollar company, and one a longtime professor at schools on two continents. But just as important, their time together on the Baylor campus forged friendships -- with each other, and with Baylor -- that have lasted half a century.

Boyhood in China

The three men -- Dr. Daniel Chi-Wai Tse, Dr. James Sai-Wing Wong and Dr. Clement Kwok-Hung Young -- were each born shortly before their native China came under Communist rule. While they are close in age, each came from a different part of the large country and took a separate path that eventually brought them first to Hong Kong and later to Baylor.

Tse is the oldest of the trio, born in 1934 in Macau, the oldest European outpost in China. The Chinese port city was colonized by Portugal in 1557 and remained under its control until Chinese rule was restored in 1999. After spending his boyhood in Macau, Tse moved in 1953 following his high school graduation to the British-controlled colony of Hong Kong to further his education.

Wong came to Hong Kong as a result of the Chinese Communist revolution. He was born in 1940 in Shanghai, where both his father and grandfather were prosperous business owners with ties to the national Chinese leadership. Shortly before the Communists seized power in 1949, Wong's father was warned of the coming danger by a phone call.

"My father received a call from President Chiang Kai-Shek's office, saying that he better leave because the Communists were coming," Wong says. "He could hear gunfire in the background. So, my father left for Hong Kong with a briefcase containing one thousand U.S. dollars in cash. Since I was the oldest son, he arranged to have me join him soon after. I was nine years old." (Wong's mother and two younger brothers were not able to rejoin the family in Hong Kong until years later.)

After graduating from middle school -- the Chinese equivalent of an American high school -- Tse and Wong first crossed paths in 1957 at Hong Kong Baptist College, which had been founded just a year earlier by the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong with the support of Baptists from the United States. Both men excelled in their studies there, and their encounter with a Baylor professor teaching at the college would change the direction of their lives.

From Hong Kong to Waco

After almost 20 years teaching English at Baylor, Dr. Christine Fall, BA '24, MA '34, volunteered to help Baylor fulfill its pledge of support to the fledgling Hong Kong Baptist College. She moved to Hong Kong in 1957 and spent the next year helping the school organize its foreign language and literature department. (See sidebar on Fall on page 31.)

As part of her duties at the college, Fall taught English and English literature to Hong Kong Baptist students, including Tse and Wong.

"Dr. Fall was a good teacher -- very warm and very dedicated," Wong remembers.

"We admired her scholarship, and were pleased that she respected Chinese culture and history," Tse adds.

The admiration was mutual, as Fall recognized the men's talents and urged them to return with her to Baylor to complete their education. This was made possible when they received scholarships from Hong Kong Baptist College funded in part by Baylor and Baptist donors. Wong received a prestigious scholarship created in honor of the college's founding president, Dr. Lam Chi Fung, and Tse received a scholarship given for academic excellence.

"At that time, Chinese mainland universities were closed to students from Hong Kong," Tse explains. "Going to Baylor was the best possible chance of furthering my education, and the U.S. was a dreamland for any young person like me."

In August 1958, Wong and Tse boarded an ocean liner in Hong Kong and began their long trip to Waco. The two men's 18-day journey took their boat first to Japan, then to Hawaii and finally to San Francisco, where the two young Chinese students used their modest command of English to board their first American train, bound for Waco.

"A porter came along and asked us, 'Are you looking for the Pullman?'" Tse remembers. "We had never heard the term before, but we did know the words 'pull' and 'man,' and it dawned on us that we must be the 'Pullman' since we were pulling our trunks."

The two were escorted to a palatial overnight Pullman compartment, complete with bunk beds and private restroom, and were marveling at how luxurious their train ride would be before the mix-up was discovered and they were taken to their modest seats in the coach section.

Friendships form at Baylor

Arriving at Baylor, where Fall had returned to resume teaching English, they roomed in a house next door to Fall's on Speight Street with a third Chinese student named Isaac Wong.

"We named our residence 'Wong-Tse Hall' after the name of a famous house in Chinese history," Tse says.

It was at Baylor that Wong and Tse would meet the third partner in what would become their unique friendship -- Clement Young.

Young was born in 1937 in Canton, China, and moved with his family to Hong Kong in 1949 to escape Communist rule. He attended Pui Ching Middle School, a Baptist secondary school, as well as a church in Hong Kong where he befriended church member and Baptist missionary Jaxie Short, a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University. Short helped Young win a scholarship to attend OBU, and he began classes there in 1956 after making an arduous trip by boat and train similar to the one taken by Wong and Tse, a journey Young remembers as "joyous."

Young earned a bachelor's in religion from OBU in 1958, and when he decided to pursue his dream of one day becoming a teacher by earning a master's in religion, he came to Baylor.

At Baylor, Young soon renewed his acquaintance with Tse, whom he had first met in Hong Kong years before, and was re-introduced to Wong, whom he remembered as a fellow student at Pui Ching. While at Baylor, Young lived on the fifth floor of Brooks Hall, where his roommates included a 6-foot-8 American nicknamed "Tree."

Despite their cultural differences, Baylor's Chinese students seemed to have no trouble interacting with their American counterparts.

"When we first arrived at Baylor, I was struck by the friendliness of the students," Tse says. "They would greet me with a loud 'howdy' whether I knew them or not."

Wong, Tse and Young were dedicated to their studies at Baylor. The two math and science majors, Tse and Wong, finished their degree requirements at a swift pace, earning undergraduate degrees in just two years.

Wong gained special notice from his instructors. In a 1960 article profiling some of Baylor's international students, the writer described the high regard in which Wong was held by the faculty. "He'll graduate from Baylor at the age of 20 with a reputation of being one of the most brilliant mathematicians to have studied at Baylor," the author wrote, adding that "his teachers find it difficult to keep ahead of him and to give him enough challenging work."

But the days at Baylor were filled with more than study. Wong, Tse and Young were part of a small but close group of international students from about three dozen countries at Baylor in the late 1950s and early 1960s who got together occasionally for mixers and more informal activities. The three Hong Kong friends often got together at "Wong-Tse Hall" for home-cooked meals and games of bridge.

There were also American pastimes to enjoy on campus. Young remembers playing ping pong in the Student Union and attending every Baylor home football game he could. Tse has fond memories of campus parties with free Dr Pepper and watermelon, and of cheering on Baylor football teams -- a habit he acquired when a stint tutoring a Baylor player in math sparked his love of the game.

Wong, although he remembers being too busy and "too poor" to attend sporting events, nevertheless saw his social life pick up after he met his future wife, Madeline Cha, on campus.

"I spent my free time chasing her, and she kept me busy. I have happy memories of that," Wong says. "My years at Baylor must be the happiest in my life."

Young also was introduced to his future spouse at Baylor. At an international student mixer on campus, he met a young Chinese student named Kam Har ("Camie") Lo who would eventually become his wife.

Finding success in education and business

The years of hard work in Waco paid off splendidly. Using their remarkable Baylor achievements as a springboard, the three men and their wives have gone on to successful careers.

Daniel Tse earned a bachelor's in mathematics from Baylor in 1960 and added a master's in physics in 1962. After receiving his doctorate in physics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1965, he did research in the United States on nuclear magnetic resonance before being invited home to help Hong Kong Baptist College develop its physics department. He then served as president of the school from 1971-2001, during which time it was renamed Hong Kong Baptist University. As the school's president, Tse introduced a student-exchange program with Baylor -- a program still going strong today.

Tse now serves as chair of the University Council of the University of Macau. The university has been given a 270-acre site on which to build a new campus, and Tse is responsible for overseeing an $820 million plan over the next three years to create a residential campus for 10,000 students.

"It is a full-time job for me, and I hope I can truly retire after completing this huge undertaking," Tse says.

In addition to his work in Macau, Tse was the founding president of the Association of Christian Universities and Colleges in Asia and serves as president of the International Society for Chinese Medicine. He has served as a Justice of the Peace in Hong Kong (a title of honor there) and has translated extensively for Billy Graham.

At Baylor, Tse was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1981 and received the Baylor Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995. His wife, Kitty, who also attended Baylor, served as the chief librarian of Hong Kong Baptist College from 1971-98.

James Wong graduated from Baylor in 1960 with a bachelor's in mathematics and physics, and with Fall's help he applied to Cal Tech, where he earned a doctorate in mathematics in 1964. During the following decade, he became world renowned in the area of the qualitative theory of differential equations and held math professorships at the Universities of Alberta, Wisconsin, Carnegie Mellon and Iowa, earning a full professorship at the University of Iowa before his 30th birthday.

Wong's career changed direction in 1974, when he returned to Hong Kong to help run his family's business following his father's death. At the same time he took a leadership position in his wife's family's company, the Cha Group. Today he is the chair and major shareholder of the Hon Kwok Land Investment Company and two other publicly traded holding companies, Chinney Investments and Chinney Alliance Group. He continues to publish mathematics research and, like Tse, was appointed a Justice of the Peace in Hong Kong.

Madeline Cha Wong, meanwhile, earned a bachelor's in chemistry from Baylor in 1961 and today serves as director of a number of international companies based in China. While no longer married, she and James Wong remain good friends and trusted business partners.

As Clement Young studied for the master's in religion he would earn at Baylor in 1961, he became interested in mathematics. Young stayed at Baylor another three years, taking the advanced courses in math and chemistry that would allow him to enter graduate school at the University of Texas, where he earned a master's in mathematics in 1964 and a doctorate in mathematics education in 1975.

After teaching math at a number of Texas universities, Young followed his good friend Tse back to Hong Kong Baptist College in 1977 and served as the school's dean of academic affairs and academic registrar for 19 years. In 1989, he also began working with the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong, serving first as a school board member and then as supervisor of his grade school alma mater, the Pui Ching Middle and Primary Schools.

Young now is helping develop the curriculum and campus of the 11-year-old Pui Ching Academy, which offers college-level training in computers, languages and other disciplines to Hong Kong's equivalent of high school graduates. He hopes the Academy will one day be able to offer college degrees.

Young's wife, Camie, went on to earn two chemistry degrees from Baylor -- a bachelor's in 1965 and a master's in 1969. The couple was married in 1967 in Waco's First Baptist Church by Baylor religion professor Kyle Yates. They have two sons, both double-degree Baylor graduates.

Strengthening the

Baylor/China connection

Today, Tse, Wong and Young remain close friends despite living in different cities. For example, both Young and Tse serve as directors of some of the companies run by Wong and his former wife, while all three have joined together in support of the Pui Ching schools by serving on the school board.

"Our paths have crossed many times, and we enjoy our friendship and bonding with each other," Young says.

All three men said that their time at Baylor was pivotal to their relationship.

"(Tse and Wong) are my best friends in life, and our friendship grows with time," Wong says. "Our time at Baylor laid the foundation for that."

"Our Baylor days together meant a lot to all three of us," Tse echoes. "We relied on each other in many ways to help ease our homesickness as students in a foreign country.

"Our friendship has become stronger since our days at Baylor," Young adds.

James Wong has assured that other Hong Kong students might have the experience he and his friends enjoyed at Baylor. He has established a scholarship in Fall's memory that now helps students from his alma mater, Pui Ching Middle School, attend Baylor. (See related story on page 33.)

Efforts to strengthen ties between Baylor and China were also advanced when a university delegation traveled overseas in 2008 to hold preliminary meetings with Wong and Tse, exploring the possibility of cooperation and collaboration between Baylor and higher education institutions in Hong Kong and Macau. Wong and Young returned the favor this past summer, visiting Baylor's campus in July to meet new President Ken Starr.

Dr. John Belew, BS '41, Baylor's provost emeritus, taught chemistry classes in Waco attended by James Wong, Madeline Cha Wong, Camie Young and other Chinese students. Looking back at their contributions to the worlds of scholarship, education, business and philanthropy, Belew is appreciative of the three Chinese friends who traveled halfway around the world to attend Baylor.

"They are all very bright and have succeeded well and accomplished great things," Belew says. "Baylor profited very much from their being here. They enriched the atmosphere considerably, and they remain good friends of the university."

Even over several decades and thousands of miles.

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