Hong Kong harbour skyline in black and white with an outline of the Toronto skyline overlaying it

The Bridge Builders

How a visionary group of alumni helped forge a strong and lasting connection between U of T and Hong Kong

Twenty-five years ago, a dedicated group of Hong Kong alumni formed the U of T (Hong Kong) Foundation with the idea of giving academically qualified youth in their city the opportunity to attend U of T on a scholarship.

Their efforts gained early support from the late Stanley Ho and the late Cheng Yu-tung, who, as founding patrons, championed the initiative across Hong Kong.

Since then, the U of T (Hong Kong) Foundation has awarded scholarships to more than 80 students. Worth $22,000 a year and renewable for four years, they are among the most generous offered by the university.

The scholarships are also a symbol of the long-standing connections between the University of Toronto and a city that’s home to one of the university’s largest alumni groups outside of Canada.

“Our relationship with Hong Kong is vital and enduring, and we are grateful for the many alumni who have supported the scholarships over the years,” says U of T President Meric Gertler. 1

Foundation scholars live and work in 15 different countries. 2 Many say their U of T experience changed their view of the world – and of themselves.

Huberta Chan (BA 2019 UC) received a foundation scholarship to study linguistics. She recalls that on the first day of her sociolinguistics class, the professor asked each student to introduce themselves with their name and the languages they spoke. “The moment I demonstrated how to say hello in Cantonese was the very first time I was aware of feeling proud to be a native Cantonese speaker from Hong Kong,” says Chan. “I had never appreciated the fact that I was bilingual.”

She says her classmates spoke with similar pride about their own languages and cultures, and she grew interested in learning more about them. “My professor taught us that every language is special because behind each one are the culture and stories unique to the people who speak it,” she says. “This is an idea I treasure to this day.”

Foundation chair Daisy Ho (MBA 1990) says she, too, feels fortunate to have studied at U of T. In some cases, she became aware of the benefits only after she graduated. “I was in my 20s and working in Hong Kong, and I realized there was a difference between me and my locally educated colleagues: I had the personal growth from having studied abroad.”

Attending U of T gave her greater self-confidence and a broader perspective, she says. She sees these same qualities in the foundation scholars she meets. “The difference between when they arrive on campus to the day they graduate – it’s their maturity, their confidence.” 3

David Palmer, U of T’s vice-president, advancement, praises those who have upheld the foundation’s vision over 25 years. “Their dedication helps these students every step of the way, from their arrival in Toronto to that proud day when they receive their hard-earned degrees,” he says.

An earlier version of this story contained incorrect graduate information for Huberta Chan.

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