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Doctor of Social Sciences
honoris causa

In its 90 year history, the University has received the support of many graduates who have become successful leaders in the Hong Kong community and devoted their valuable time to promoting the interest of their alma mater. One of the most distinguished of these graduates is Mary Rodrigues. Loyal to the family tradition of service to the University shown by her father-in-law, Sir Albert Rodrigues, Mary Rodrigues has served the University in different capacities for almost a quarter of a century, most notably as Chairman of Convocation for three consecutive terms from 1993 to 2001.

As Mary Gray, Mrs Rodrigues received a BA Honours Degree in 1967. During her undergraduate years, she already distinguished herself as a student leader when she became the only woman delegate from Asia to participate in the 18th Congress of AIESEC, the International Association of Students of Sciences, Economics and Culture, and played a crucial role in obtaining membership for HKU at the Congress. Our membership continues to this day and has benefited many generations of students.

On graduation, Mary Rodrigues was among the first batch of local graduates to be recruited by the Swire Group as management trainees, and the Group's first woman trainee. She has had a long and successful career at Swire's, first at Cathay Pacific Airways, and then from 1978, at Swire Properties. She demonstrated considerable flair at marketing, helping to found the “Marco Polo Club” at Cathay Pacific, among other projects, and her managerial and interpersonal skills were appreciated and recognised by her colleagues when she became the first woman Chairperson for the Swire Staff Association. A busy career did not prevent her from cultivating other interests: she wrote a column for the South China Morning Post, co-authored a book, Eating Out in Hong Kong - one of the tastiest research outputs produced by a HKU graduate - and was Secretary of the Association of the Mentally Handicapped.

After successfully establishing herself in her career, Mary Rodrigues put her private sector expertise and professional and personal network in the service of the University community. She joined the Standing Committee of Convocation in 1979, was elected Clerk of Convocation in 1986, and Chairman in 1993. After retiring from the Chair in 2001, she continues to serve on the University Council to this day, and is currently member of a number of University committees.

Under her leadership from the mid-1980s to the 1990s, Convocation entered a dynamic phase in its membership organisation. Mary Rodrigues was acutely aware of the fact that the University's graduates were of varying generations from diverse backgrounds and had different professional interests. To recognise this diversity and maximise its potential, she actively encouraged the formation of a number of alumni societies while Convocation assumed the overall coordination role, and facilitated networking of these different societies.

This restructuring paved the way for a more systematic approach to graduates' contribution to the University. She is the initiator of the affinity credit card scheme, the first among local tertiary institutions which, since its inception in 1993, had brought in some HK$51m of funds to the HKU Foundation. Another significant project she pioneered, again the first in Hong Kong, is the Mentorship Scheme. Through this scheme, current students were able to benefit from the personal guidance of graduates, to find out more about the world outside the University, and to develop precisely those interpersonal and social skills that Mary Rodrigues herself possesses in such considerable measure. University staff were not neglected when as Chair of Convocation, she organised a number of fun fairs for the staff and their families. She was an active member of the organising committees of the University's 80th and 90th Anniversary celebrations, and the idea for the 90th Anniversary commemorative volume, "Growing with Hong Kong – The University and Its Graduates – The First 90 Years", is another example of her creative initiative.

With her forthright manner, Mary Rodrigues has engaged many in debate and dialogue; in her loyalty and fervour, she has won over others who might have been less committed than herself. The past two decades have witnessed a tremendous growth in the bond between the University and its alumni. In fostering and energising this bond, Mary Rodrigues' contribution has been invaluable.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, it gives me the greatest pleasure to present Mary Gray Rodrigues for award of the Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa.

Citation written and delivered by Dr Elaine Ho Yee Lin, the Public Orator.

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