It was one of the biggest decisions of his life. In 1978, almost two decades before the British returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule, Kenneth Lo uprooted his family and brought them to Toronto in search of a stable future. “A lot of people at that time were afraid of Red China,” he says. “Confidence was not high.”
Lo has since moved back to Hong Kong, where he works with his three sons – Andrew (BA 1988 UC), Nick (BASc 1990) and Howard (BCom 2001 TRIN) – at The Crystal Group, the multinational clothing company he founded with his wife, Yvonne, almost 40 years ago. (Daughter Amy [BCom 1989 UC] also works for The Crystal Group, but she and her family live in Toronto.) During a visit to Toronto last summer, Lo said he’s still very fond of the city, and particularly appreciates its diversity. “Canada is very multicultural. People here have equal rights and they respect each other,” he says.
Lo’s four children – and Amy’s husband, Paul Mang (BASc 1985), and Nick’s wife, Elaine (BCom 1989 VIC) – all attended U of T, so it comes as no surprise that the 67-year-old entrepreneur maintains close ties with the university. Lo counts Robert Prichard as a friend – the former U of T president attended Amy’s wedding. He has also donated funds to student bursaries and the Institute for Child Study, where Amy’s daughters attend school.
Lo supports the university because he is a strong believer in the transformative power of education. “It’s where students learn how to think,” he says. Besides giving to U of T and Upper Canada College, Lo also finances education projects to help the poor in China and Hong Kong. Noting that The Crystal Group employs more than 30,000 people, Lo says he considers a good education crucial to understanding people and therefore a key qualification for succeeding in business. “The way you are successful is to bring people together for the same goal. Management and leadership are important.”
He also sees an important role for the company in fighting climate change and using the Earth’s resources responsibly. “We try to involve the whole company in environmental protection,” he says.
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre