A Random Act of Kindness

I had the pleasure to meet with Prof. Jeffrey Sachs (1st left), renowned economist and SDSN Director, and Mr. Anthony W K Chow (middle), Deputy Chairman of The Hong Kong Jockey Club at the SDSN Hong Kong Launch Ceremony

A little more than two weeks into my office as the Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK, my schedule has already been packed with meetings and commitments. The work ahead is challenging and full of opportunities. One particularly memorable event in these early days, which was also the first ceremony I officiated on campus, is the Launch Ceremony of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Hong Kong – part of a United Nations initiative that is of great significance to both CUHK and Hong Kong.

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) aims to promote global sustainable development by welcoming the participation of professionals from diverse locales and backgrounds to join in a collective effort to eradicate poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change.

A selfie with Prof. Woo Wing Thye

Under the auspices of The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, CUHK is the co-host of SDSN Hong Kong, representing a huge recognition for the institution.  Over the years, CUHK has played a pioneering role in the education, research and promotion of sustainable development.  Our students and staff have proactively engaged themselves in cross-disciplinary research and collaboration in the fields, and have continuously strived to contribute to the well-being of Hong Kong and beyond.

I was deeply honoured to be able to contribute to this meaningful project, which actually brought me another very pleasant surprise.  Last month when I was flying in from the US, my flight was delayed several times owing to the cold spells all over North America.  Stranded at the airport, I received an e-mail, and the sender's name didn't ring a bell.  As I read through I found that it was from someone who had briefly stayed in my dormitory room during my time at the The Rockefeller University in New York as a PhD student some 40 years ago!  We knew each other through a common friend but not well, only that he was a Malaysian Chinese undergraduate student at Swarthmore College. We did not have the chance to get to know each other better because, as he recalled, I was labouring away in the laboratory day and night!

Time flies.  After some 40 years, this young fellow has become an outstanding economist on the faculty of the University of California, Davis, currently co-chairing the SDSN Southeast Asia Network.  He is Prof. Woo Wing Thye, the first PhD student supervised by the renowned economist and SDSN Director Prof. Jeffrey Sachs while he was at Harvard.  Professor Sachs and Professor Woo travelled to Hong Kong this month specifically to attend the Launch Ceremony of SDSN Hong Kong.  As the keynote speaker, Professor Sachs remarked on Hong Kong’s global leadership role in facing the 21st century challenges of sustainable development.  It was a most emphatic affirmation of the collaboration between CUHK and The Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Professor Woo and I were both thrilled by this reunion.  We caught up and went down memory lane over dim sum in a Chinese restaurant.  He still remembers well what I did for him decades ago.  Who would have expected that a random act of kindness in one’s youth would pave the way years later for deeper collaboration between CUHK and the sustainability efforts in the world at large and in Southeast Asia in particular?  

SDSN Hong Kong was officially launched on 8 January 2018

I sincerely believe that a good beginning has already been made.  CUHK and The Hong Kong Jockey Club have pledged to do their very best to promote sustainability in Hong Kong on the environment, the social and the economic fronts by rallying the cooperation of different parties, such as the government, charitable organizations, academia, the business sector, and NGOs for this meaningful cause.  We truly hope that such synergy will culminate in effective sustainable development solutions that benefit the whole world.

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