Honorary University Fellows
Mr Henry Wai is a former Registrar of the University of Hong Kong and an alumnus who has dedicated his life to serving the University, retiring in the summer of 2020 after forty-seven years of loyal and distinguished service.
Mr Wai holds a BA and an MA from HKU. Mr Wai began his employment at the University as an Executive Officer II in 1973. He has served as Secretary of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Secretary of the Faculty of Medicine, Examinations Secretary, Deputy Registrar for academic matters and many other positions in the University. Through diligent and outstanding work, he rose steadily to the position of Acting Registrar in 2000 and then Registrar in 2002.
Over the past fifty years, the University has gone through many changes and reforms, to which Mr Wai has provided invaluable counsel and contributions. He was one of the original designers of the Joint University Programmes Admission System (JUPAS) in Hong Kong. His involvement in setting up relations with the major Mainland universities in the 1990s helped lay the path for the academic and research collaborations with Mainland universities that HKU enjoys today. Through his active engagement on HKU’s behalf with the Hong Kong and Mainland governments, the University was able to admit its first Mainland undergraduate students in 1998. Understanding the importance of technological developments to University administration, Mr Wai spearheaded the comprehensive upgrade of the computer student records system in the 1990s, and later, he was deeply involved in the implementation of the Enterprise Resource Planning student information system project. He has helped the University prepare its development plans in every academic planning exercise in the past two decades.
Some of the University’s greatest changes, challenges and crises occurred while Mr Wai was Registrar, during which time he was also Secretary of the University Court, Council, and Senate. Members of the University’s senior management and governance have all consistently turned to Mr Wai for the benefit of his knowledge and experience with the University’s system and structure, rules and regulations, and its staff, students and stakeholders. HKU has faced many crises during the last twenty years, including a few very serious ones. In almost all of these, Mr Wai’s extensive experience, wisdom and loyal counsel helped the University manage, mitigate and weather these storms. Indeed, Mr Wai has been described as HKU’s “walking encyclopaedia” and is trusted to always have the best interests of the University at heart.
Citation delivered by Professor Richard Wong, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Mr Henry Wai is a former Registrar of the University of Hong Kong and an alumnus who has dedicated his life to serving the University, retiring in the summer of 2020 after 47 years of loyal and distinguished service.
Mr Wai holds a BA and an MA from HKU. He joined the University as an undergraduate in 1969, and – except for one brief foray into the world of banking as a fresh graduate – essentially never really left. Banking’s loss would turn out to be the University’s gain.
In 1973 he was appointed as an Executive Officer at HKU, and over the next three decades would rise through the ranks by virtue of his diligent and outstanding work, until his appointment in 2002 as Registrar, a position he would hold for the next 18 years.
Ladies and gentlemen, you may well ask: what does nearly half a century of service as a university administrator really mean?
I could try to itemise all the titles, projects and duties Mr Wai has had over the years, across all the different academic disciplines, and involving a wide range of administrative responsibilities.
That list would certainly take hours to read! And although it would be technically accurate and very impressive, I would like to respectfully suggest another approach.
Many of you here tonight are HKU colleagues, and directly or indirectly, may have worked with Mr Wai. I do not think I am mistaken in thinking that, over the years, he has developed an almost mythical status amongst colleagues!
It is very suggestive that, at his retirement gathering last year, many colleagues – young and not so young – were lining up to have selfies taken with him, while wearing badges that were printed with his face and the words: “定海神針”, which roughly translates to “a magical rod that calms the oceans”!
To return to my earlier question: I think that this shows that in addition to the expertise and experience that comes from half a century of service at the University, the most important thing in the minds of HKUers is trust. The name Henry Wai equals trust.
Over the past fifty years, the University has gone through many changes and reforms, and there have been times when the metaphorical oceans that the University has found itself in have been very rough indeed.
Some of the University’s greatest challenges and crises occurred while Mr Wai was Registrar, during which time he was also Secretary of the University Court, Council, and Senate. At these times of great turmoil, members of HKU’s senior management and governance have all consistently turned to Mr Wai. His experience, wisdom and loyal counsel helped the University manage, mitigate and weather these storms.
But most importantly, we turned to him because we trusted him.
Mr Pro-Chancellor, you may be interested to learn that Mr Wai’s first name, Henry, is one of German origin and means “ruler of the home”. While our modest and unassuming Henry would of course declaim such grand connotations, it is certainly true that he has regarded the University as his home.
Through all the highs and lows, he has loyally championed its endeavours, nurtured and cared for his home, and dedicated his life to his alma mater.
And we, the HKU Family, can always trust him to have the best interests of the University at heart.
Therefore, Mr Pro-Chancellor, it is my great pleasure to present Mr Henry Wai Wing Kun for the Honorary University Fellowship, in recognition of his contributions to the University and academia.