MARCH 2014
Of Founding Days and 334
From top: VP-AB Prof YS Wong oversaw construction of 11 new buildings on and off campus at HKUST; Prof Wong’s calligraphy wishing HKUST future success; at the YS Cup football tournament; grand farewell.

This month, HKUST will say farewell to Prof Yuk-shan (“YS”) Wong, Vice-President for Administration and Business (VP-AB), who takes with him a host of cherished achievements.

Among his most treasured memories is being one of the first dozen academics on board at HKUST.  Prof Wong, an environmental biologist, became the sole member of the then Department of Biology in 1990, assisting with everything in the Department from curriculum planning to lab design ahead of the University’s official opening in 1991.

Founding energy and vision
He recalled how in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before globalization became part of everyday conversation, how highly ambitious it seemed to launch an international research-intensive university in Hong Kong with the goal of world-class impact; and how Founding President Prof Chia-Wei Woo persuaded, impressed and inspired founding members, including leading overseas Chinese academics and international researchers, into sharing his vision of creating such an institution.

It was not easy, Prof Wong said, as some people were scathing about the prospect. However, for many of those approached, the vision took hold. "Academics can be so very different in philosophy or political ideology,” he noted.  “But on the idea of contributing to building a world-class university in this location, they were united.  We were really working for a dream.”

Building up to 334
Prof Wong stayed at HKUST until 1998, when he left his then post of Associate Vice-President for Research and Development to join City University of Hong Kong.  He returned to HKUST in 2006 as Vice-President for Administration and Business, charged with looking after preparations for Hong Kong’s 334 education reform for offices ranging from finance and facilities to human resources and information technology.

Having been deeply involved in the reform as a member of the Education Commission, University Grants Committee and as Chairman of the Curriculum Development Council, among other roles, he was well prepared to handle the extensive infrastructural changes entailed in the move from a three-year to four-year degree system and rise in student numbers.

Projects included major buildings for the Lee Shau Kee Campus and several student hostels, as well as the Library extension to accommodate the Chevalier Learning Commons and other initiatives. He led the challenging 2½-year Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project to deliver the organizational and information system changes to support 334; oversaw the reformation of the University’s financial reporting system, and a faculty compensation scheme to keep HKUST internationally competitive; and steered through new staff training and recognition schemes.  “I was very happy to have contributed to this huge change of landscape in Hong Kong education,” he said, “and to see it get so smoothly underway at HKUST.” 

On leaving HKUST, Prof Wong will become President of the Open University of Hong Kong.