Citations and Speeches


133rd Congregation (1988)

Leonard Kenneth YOUNG
O.B.E., B.A. (Briminghan), M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

The Public Orator Professor William Ian Rees Davies, B.D.S., M.SC., Dip in Periodontics, F.D.S.C.R.C.S., wrote and delivered the following citation:

During the decade of the fifties there was a Raffles Professor of History at the University of Malaya who acquired an international reputation. His academic prowess at that time was as a naval historian, and it was in part his analysis of certain illuminating statistics from the Admiralty showing how the number of officials had almost doubled in the 14 years while the number of ships and men had substantially decreased which led to this Professor’s international fame. If I state the law which was derived from this kind of analysis, the first law he promulgated: ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’, you will all know to whom I refer – Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson. I realize the name of Parkinson and the statement of laws should generally be only whispered quietly in the corridors of power, but I dare to mention his name because a certain young teacher of history joined his department at the University of Malaya in 1958. He was Leonard Kenneth Young and he was then thirty-two years of age, with some ten years of life in the ‘grove of Academe’ behind him.

Born in London, but having moved to Shanghai with his family at the age of five, Leonard Young was educated first at the Public and Thomas Hanbury School in Shanghai. The tumult of war was to interrupt his studies with a period of internment in China. Following his return to the United Kingdom, and two years of service with the Royal Air Force in the post-war period, Leonard Young studied Medieval and Modern History at the University of Birmingham and was almost deflected into American frontier history for his graduate studies. However, he succumbed to the lure of another kind of frontier, and he went on the University of Oxford, to Magdalen College, to complete his second degree, this time in Oriental Studies. He remained at Oxford for a further four years, researching into British Policy in China in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and was awarded his Doctorate of Philosophy in 1960.

By that time, as you will have heard, Dr. Young was already back in South East Asia, where Professor Parkinson, true to his belief that a good teacher in any particular field should be capable of teaching any aspect of that subject anytime and anywhere, had sent his newly acquired lecturer to Kuala Lumpur to teach Renaissance History, quite a change from Modern Chinese History. Leonard Young is not the only person of eminence in this University to have had Professor Parkinson as head of department, so I trust I may be forgiven, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, for returning to his writings. In ‘Parkinson’s Law’ published in 1958, there is a chapter that might be considered apposite – ‘Pension Point or Age of Retirement’. In his opening paragraph, Parkinson notes that: “Ages of compulsory retirement are fixed at points varying from fifty-five to seventy-five all being equally arbitrary and unscientific. Whatever age has been decreed by accident or custom can be defended by the same argument. Where the retirement age is fixed at sixty-five the defenders of this system will always have found, by experience, that the mental powers and energy shows signs of flagging at the age of sixty-two. This would be a most useful conclusion to have reached had not a different phenomenon been observed in organizations where the age of retirement has been fixed at sixty. There, we are told, people are found to lose their grip, in some degree, at the age of fifty-seven. As against that, men whose retiring age is fifty-five are known to be past their best at fifty-two”.

I quote this, Mr. Chancellor, as only of passing interest, for the percipient Professor Parkinson goes on to suggest a formula for calculating the successful career of an individual. Like Shakespeare in ‘As You Like It” had his seven stages of man from ‘mewling to puking’ infant to the last age of ‘second childishness, and mere oblivion’, so does Parkinson propose ten stages for a successful career. These commence with the Age of Qualification, and progress successively through the Ages of Discretion, Promotion, Responsibility, Authority, Achievement, Distinction, Dignity, Wisdom – but I think discretion dictates that I go no further. In conjunction with these ages there is a suggested mathematical formula for their progression, and since the Age of Qualification is taken when academic and professional training ends, I calculate that Professor Parkinson would now consider his one-time colleague Professor Young to be in the Age of Distinction.

However, it would be remiss of me if I gave no account of how Professor Young has arrived at this point in his career. It is a career which has been very much an integral part of the development of this University, for he joined the Faculty of Arts in 1960, and was successively Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Professor of history all within the space of eight years. He became Head of the Department of History in 1968, but moved into another sphere of the university endeavour in 1973 when he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Arts for a period of three years. This sphere of university administration was to increasingly demand more and more of Professor Young’s time and attention inevitably in part at the expense of his commitment to his teaching and to historical research.

That this sacrifice has been worthwhile needs no more eloquent a testimony than this evening’s Congregation, for the University now seeks to recognize the substantial contribution Professor Young has made to its development over the last eleven years. Leonard Young was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 1977, curiously enough when Parkinson would have seen him as moving between the Age of Authority and the Age of Achievement, and he has thus served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor under two Vice-Chancellors and in a time of rapid development and change in the University. But one statistic will be indicative of that rate of change: in 1977 there were 4,664 students on this campus, this year there are 8,742. Such growth is not without its problems in shaping policies, in allocating resources, and Professor Young has played his part in full measure in these processes, helping the University to adjust to its changing circumstances.

The very fact that he has served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for four terms is indicative of the regard held for his views and for his contributions to the administrative process. By virtue of his position in the University Administration, it is interesting to reflect upon how many hours Professor Young has spent on different University Committees and Working Parties – perhaps it doesn’t bear to much contemplation, but there is one aspect of Professor Young’s work which must be cited today, Mr. Chancellor. As the old saying goes, ‘when the shoe fits, then you’re not allowing for growth’ and allowing for growth on this main campus can be no mean achievement. It needs more than a shoe-horn simply to fit in the buildings, the staff and students and to allow adequate access to the different teaching facilities on this site. Professor Young would be the first to insist that the intricate planning has been the result of teamwork and the efforts of many, but members of that team over the years would themselves acknowledge Leonard Young’s contribution to the University’s Capital Development Programme. The historian, the man versed in the humanities, became the man who had to deal with architects, building engineers and surveyors, and he was a key figure in their interface with the University as an academic body. The often unenviable tasks facing him as Chairman of the Accommodation Committee in the allocation of space to competing faculties and departments demanded all the sagacity and, indeed, tenacity for which our Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor has acquired his reputation. At the same time he has been part of the University’s voice in the community, advising public bodies on educational matters, most notably as a member of the Hong Kong Examination Authority.

It is therefore with the greatest pleasure, Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the University which he has served so faithfully in his different capacities since 1960, that I present Professor Leonard Kenneth Young for the award of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. His contributions to our growth and development are numerous as he has helped the University to respond to the significant and widespread changes in education in Hong Kong. As Kaufman has succinctly put it: ‘Education is not a product: mark, diploma, job, money – in that order; it is a process, a never-ending one’. Perhaps that needs to be said particularly loudly here in Hong Kong, and Professor Young has helped this University to respond to the community’s needs, but still keep uppermost its educational objectives as it grew to draw upon an ever wider community base for its student body. Leonard Young has throughout sought to maintain the University of Hong Kong in the forefront of changes in tertiary education in the Territory, but at the same time to keep it in touch with the community it serves. The University brings before you, Mr. Chancellor, an academic historian and author; a one-time Public Orator; an administrator who has been the continuity spanning two Vice-Chancellorships; someone who has helped to shape the campus we see about us, and the academic programmes which this University offers; someone who has filled the Office of Pro-Vice-Chancellor with dignity and distinction; but above all else Professor Leonard Young comes before you as an Educationalist, in the broadest sense of the word.

Citation written and delivered by Professor William Ian Rees Davies, the Public Orator.

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