John Cheng, B.A. ’91 (1969-2022)

Distinguished Achievement Award

John Cheng, B.A. ’91 (1969-2022)
John Cheng, B.A. ’91 (1969-2022)

Dr. John Cheng had a talent for connecting with people, and he lived a life that exhibited care, compassion and generosity for the communities he formed around him. 

Cheng practiced family and sports medicine as the medical director of South Coast Medical Group and at Health Center at Soka University in Orange County, California. In a video produced for his practice, Cheng spoke of why he chose to study and practice medicine.

“What inspired me to get involved in medicine in the first place is, I come from a family of physicians, and I saw the care my father imbued on his patients in a small community in East Texas, and I saw the community rally around him and embrace him as a physician in the community,” Cheng said. 

His choice of profession was a choice about how he would orient himself toward his community. Cheng also was involved in his community through teaching martial arts, caring for student-athletes, serving at his church and volunteering at local high schools. 

Cheng was a husband and father of two and very accomplished in martial arts.

According to his staff, Cheng taught and shared his love of medicine with the next generation of healthcare providers through mentoring and training them. 

“With each individual patient that comes in our doors … somehow we can touch their lives for the better,” Cheng said. “We are planting seeds in this person’s heart and in their mind about how to take care of themselves. And when they’re taking care of themselves then they are able to take care of their family, which creates a more positive family environment which then translates into better communities.”

Hailing from Marshall, Texas, Cheng was a pre-med Baylor graduate in 1991, received his M.D. from Texas Tech University in 1995 and completed his residency at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Todd Reppert, B.B.A. ’91, is a current Baylor Regent and former Kappa Omega Tau fraternity brother of Cheng. 

“John was always a great student and a hard worker, but I think what really drove him into the pre-med degree was that he really loved caring for people. Again, going back to the thought that John loved people and loved to get to know them and loved to care for them, I think he wanted to live his life that way. He wanted to have a profession where he could live out those feelings and desires to get to know and care for people.” 

Friends who know Cheng at Baylor knew him as someone who never knew a stranger, was committed to living out his Christian faith and approached life with a sense of joy. 

Scott Young, B.B.A. ’91, was a close friend and roommate of Cheng. 

“John was all in on his Christian faith and learning and growing and he really had a desire to be compassionate to everyone he met,” Scott remembered. “And I wouldn’t say John was just nice to everybody. He was kind. And there’s a difference between being nice and having kindness. John had kindness and a great deal of compassion in his heart for other people.”

KOT fraternity members have pledge books in which new pledges write their favorite Bible verses and quotes. Cheng’s favorite quote was, “Character is not developed in a crisis, it is only exhibited.” Dr. Cheng exhibited a character worth emulating throughout all aspects of his life until its end. 

On May 15, 2022, a gunman entered the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, where the parishioners of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church worship. Cheng talked with and attempted to disarm the gunman, saving dozens of lives. Cheng was the lone fatality in the attempted mass shooting. 

In honor of his life and work, friends of Dr. Cheng and alumni of Baylor’s Kappa Omega Tau fraternity have established the John Cheng Endowed Scholarship to benefit students who are pursuing Baylor’s pre-med program.