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13 November 2009

HKUST President Tony F Chan's Installation Speech

I stand here honored and humbled by this call to service. I have sailed across the ocean and have come home after 40 years. Today, before this august assembly, in front of our Chief Executive, our Court and Council Chairmen and Members, our benefactors and supporters, faculty members, students, and friends who have flown from afar to witness this most important passage in my life, in front of you all, in the presence of my wife, our two children and other family members, I make this solemn pledge: I pledge to serve HKUST and Hong Kong in the best way a loyal native son can, to uphold the university's founding ideals and to achieve our shared dreams. We believed then, and we believe now, that this university has an important part to play in shaping Hong Kong's destiny.

This joyful day is also an occasion to reaffirm our faith, to take stock of where we are, and to soul-search for our way forward. For me as it is for you, this day begins a new era, a new chapter of hopes and plans that opens up a whole new world of challenges and promises.

It is almost impossible to fill the shoes of my predecessors Professor Chia-Wei Woo and Professor Paul Chu, who have birthed this University and put us on the world map. But I know I can count on the support of members of our faculty and staff to drive this University to greater heights of achievement. Together we will continue to build it into an institution of which we and future generations can be immensely proud.

Some 20 years ago when we first began, building a university of science and technology in a city of quick returns was something of a quixotic dream. Today that dream remains fresh in memory and in action, and our ambition has not diminished. We have achieved global rankings undreamed of 20 years ago, and attained world recognition in everything that we do, from Science, Engineering, to Business and Social Science. The calls for education and research in science and technology, together with scientific management innovations, to tackle major technological and social challenges of human society have become more urgent than ever.

This is a time of unprecedented change, when the world is reeling from a financial crisis that is felt in every corner of the earth. The entire world's attention is now focused on Asia, and China in particular - not just looking for markets or cheap labor, but for inspiration, talents, and new ideas. We in Hong Kong are in a unique position to participate in this spectacular growth, spearhead the new knowledge revolution, and nurture new talents.

What other place in the world offers more exciting opportunities for growth, for expansion and for change than Hong Kong, and what better place to try out new ideas than HKUST?

Hong Kong's landscape of higher education is changing at a pace unimaginable just 5 years ago. As a young university, we have the flexibility, the openness, and the impulse for creativity that mark our special character. As a latecomer, we have made an imprint on Hong Kong and we shall continue to impact the way university education and research are carried out. We must seize the momentum of education reform generated by the change to a 4-year degree to fashion university education as we have always dreamed it, and make Hong Kong's education among the finest in the world.

The time is ripe for us to sharpen the special role of science and technology in Hong Kong, where, combined with our managerial expertise and entrepreneurial spirit, with human insight and social understanding, we shall jointly tackle the global grand challenges and educate a new generation of students for this challenge. In this context, I am happy to note that our Chief Executive has included technology and innovation as one of the six new pillars of Hong Kong's economy. This signals the beginning of our government's determination to enhance the role of S&T in our society, and to invest in research and innovation for the future.

As the next president, I shall work with you all to bring to this University the quality promised and entrusted to us by the people of Hong Kong.

We must continue to leverage on our special role as a university of science and technology, to send out the message to the young people of this city of the importance of S&T as engines of the future, and to encourage, nurture and educate future leaders of science, technology and innovation. Leaders the world over are recognizing the pivotal role of science, technology and innovation in driving economic and social progress. China's "125" National Science & Technology Development Plan spells out in the most compelling terms the grand vision of changing China into a Nation of Innovation. Similarly, the US Government has announced its commitment to harnessing national S&T efforts to address 21st Century grand challenges and to maintain US leadership in innovation. Saudi Arabia, where I recently visited, has inaugurated a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology by the Red Sea, launching a breathtaking program of S&T education and research as an agent of cultural renaissance.

Chinese civilization, like the Arab, has had a glorious history of scientific and technological inventions. These inventions, in mathematics and astronomy, in paper making and the compass, have made immense contributions to humanity. To this list, we should add the contribution in Fractional Quantum Hall Effect made by Professor Daniel Tsui, one of our honorees this year. And we can now also add fiber optics, thanks to Professor Charles Kao Kuen. It is my fervent hope that HKUST can contribute to the continuation of this long tradition.

It is not a moment too soon for HKUST to bear the torch for a cultural renaissance in this part of the world: in educating a new generation of leaders who are scientifically literate and technically savvy, with broad understanding of diverse cultures and social issues, and with pride in dedication to the betterment of humankind. From training science teachers to innovators of the next technological revolution, HKUST must be the premier destination for S&T education.

  - We must be known as one of the best science and technology universities globally in both education and research; an institution of choice where faculty and students take pride in belonging.
  - We will train students to be future leaders in Hong Kong, Greater China and globally.
  - We will provide them with the unique opportunity offered by our university's special blending of S&T with Business Management and the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  - We must be recognized as a global innovator in research. We as a university will consciously impact society economically and effect cultural change.
  - We will pursue world-class excellence and grow our own talent.
  - We will be an economic engine, a brain trust, a cultural pillar, an opinion leader, an educator, a creator of knowledge, and an ambassador for science.

Through hard work, persistence and openness to creativity, we will convince the world that Hong Kong and HKUST can contribute to China's S&T innovation, that we can and will be key players in the world of knowledge revolution.

Ultimately, the caliber of our people will determine the quality of our future. This is why our enterprise is so crucial, why it is imperative that our joint endeavor must not fail.

The great Roman poet Horace articulated the narrative technique of "Beginning in the Middle". I am beginning in the middle of the University's youth, and the peak is yet ours to climb. It is my supreme honor, duty and pleasure to see that the HKUST miracle continues and our dream lives.

Thank you.


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