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Colin LAM Ko Yin




Colin LAM Ko Yin

Doctor of Social Sciences
honoris causa

Mr Pro-Chancellor,

We gather here today to celebrate the remarkable contributions of a long-time friend of our University Family, Dr Colin LAM Ko Yin. Many here have long known Dr Lam as one of our very own. He received a BSc degree from HKU in 1973, was awarded an Honorary University Fellowship in 2008, and was honoured as a distinguished alumnus by the Faculty of Science at its 70th Anniversary in 2009.

In Dr Lam’s 48 years of success working in the Hong Kong banking and property development arena, he has consistently upheld the spirit of benevolence and social responsibility as key factors testifying to the overall achievements. Dr Lam’s long-time roles include the Chairman of the Hong Kong Ferry (Holdings) Co Ltd, the Vice Chairman of Henderson Land Development Co Ltd, and a Director of the Hong Kong and China Gas Co Ltd, and of Miramar Hotel and Investment Co Ltd. Dr Lam is known for his loyalty and steadfastness—he has served in the Henderson group for 40 years; Dr Lee Shau Kee considers him a true “partner in business.”

Many local and international tertiary institutions have benefited from Dr Lam’s expertise and generosity. Just to name a few: He has served as Honorary Court member of Hong Kong Baptist University, Court member of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the City University of Hong Kong as well as Director of the Fudan University Education Development Foundation and Honorary Director of the Beijing University. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2019, and was conferred a degree of Doctor of Business (honoris causa) by Macquarie University in 2015, and of Doctor of Business Administration (honoris causa) by HKUST in 2021. Dr Lam was awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star in 2017. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, and of the Hong Kong Institute of Directors, and a Director of the Union Hospital and of the Hong Kong Housing Settlers Corporation Ltd.

This above list is by no means exhaustive as Dr Lam’s contributions are many and they all run deep, but we know that his heart is here, on this campus, where he started his journey in his formative years as an undergraduate majoring in Chemistry and Physics. He was a Member of the Court from 2006 to 2012, has been the Deputy Chairman of the HKU Foundation since 2013, while also serving on the University’s Boards of Trustees for the Staff Provident Fund, Staff Terminal Benefits Scheme and Staff Retirement Scheme, and as a member of the Disbursement Committee and Investment Sub-committee. The most stunning testimony to how Dr Lam has generously given back to his alma mater is the Chi Wah narrative.

Dr Lam founded the Chi Wah Foundation Ltd in 1992, with the goal of making education more accessible to all. Over the years the Foundation has raised numerous funds and made many donations to individuals and communities in dire needs, especially in impoverished regions of Mainland China. The spirit of Dr Lam’s Foundation is most aptly represented by the Chi Wah Learning Commons at HKU. As a jewel on the crown of our Centennial Campus built ten years ago, the Chi Wah Learning Commons has become a most treasured space for our students born in the digital age, and it is now their home on campus just as the Libraries had been for the students of Dr Lam’s times. Outbreak of COVID-19 stimulates a rethinking of our mode of teaching and learning. The Chi Wah Learning Commons is now a digital and virtual hub, facilitating blended learning—a mix of learning online and face-to-face, between teachers and students without the confines of physical walls, territories, and boundaries. The University Grants Committee (UGC) commended the Chi Wah Learning Commons as a pioneer for our sister tertiary institutions. The Commons has drawn students from diverse background together in a conducive environment for intellectual growth and bonding. Twentieth-first century technologies and state-of-the-art facilities are featured in this intimate campus “nest,” enveloped by a spectacular setting of mountains and seas. This is the gift that will keep on giving and a place where many memories will be shaped.

Dr Lam coins his Foundation as well as the Learning Commons as “Chi Wah.” The literary scholar in me wants to thoroughly unpack the rich meanings behind these two characters. Naming, as we know, is of utmost importance. Here, the clues are provided by Dr Lam himself. Visitors who walk into the tastefully decorated Chinese chamber of the Chi Wah will surely notice a pair of engraved couplets on the orange-red walls. Dr Lam composed the couplet, stylised it with his beautiful calligraphy, which was then carved onto two wooden plaques. He poetically embeds the two syllables of “Chi Wah” as leading characters of the couplet: “智啟神州作育英才宏道基 / 華滿儒林春風化雨百煉金.” “Chi” stands for intelligence or wisdom, and an educational journey that ensures that the gift of a fine education be passed on from one generation to the next. And the character “Wah” underscores the Chinese roots but here it also stands for a blossoming of talents encouraged by incessant spring breeze and rain, a most inducive microclimate nurtured by generations on this campus. The words and the engraved object are a resounding statement of a deep love of Chinese language and culture, of this university, of our students, of our community, and indeed of humanity.

Mr Pro-chancellor, isn’t this the most forceful realisation of our university motto? Our Chinese motto 明德格物(mingde gewu) originates from a key line in the Confucian classic The Great Learning, which I translate as this: “The way of Great Learning consists in illuminating virtues and approaching people, and this journey only concludes when perfect goodness is achieved.” So the two compound words in our Chinese motto underscores the importance of intellect being developed side by side with a cultivation of virtues and values. Our Latin motto Sapientia et Virtus, or “Wisdom and Virtues,” beautifully transcribes such an art of balancing, that there are moral and social implications to the knowledge we produce and transmit on this historic campus. Our motto is inscribed everywhere on this campus but it is in Dr Lam that we see a living example of how these words are most accurately realised.

Dr Lam typically shies away from the limelight and maintains his humility despite all the amazing accomplishments. But since this university has been his home community, many stories about him have been circulated. In writing this citation, I have gathered some of these stories. Let me share a few here. His love of literature aside, Dr Lam is also an avid skier and he is a proud Black Diamond—forever seeking challenges ahead. And he treasures teamwork and cherishes talents. So to combine the two, he takes his team to go skiing. The HKU Family’s living icon Professor Rosie Young celebrated her 90th birthday two years ago. Covid-19 prevented a face-to-face gathering so a Zoom party was held. Dr Lam decided to contribute to the virtual gathering with a clip of himself bursting into a tune of La Traviata, the Drinking Song. It delighted everyone at the party—alumni, colleagues, and friends. It was the brightest moment that lit up the gloomiest of the pandemic days.

When Dr Sun Yat-sen returned to this campus and delivered a public address inside this very space—at the time it was not yet named Loke Yew and was simply called the Great Hall—on February 20, 1923, he famously said: “I feel as though I have returned home.” It is safe to say that in HKU Dr Lam found a home fifty years ago as a student and it has remained his home ever since. For this home, he has given unreservedly. Today, we recognise Dr Lam for his unique contributions to our community with the University’s highest honour.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, it is my great honour and privilege to present to you Dr Colin LAM Ko Yin, for the award of Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa.

Citation written and delivered by Professor Nicole Huang, Public Orator, the University of Hong Kong. Professor Huang would like to thank Ms Bernadette Tsui, The University of Hong Kong, for her generous assistance with this citation.

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