Citations and Speeches


159th Congregation (2000)

O.B.E., Ph.D., D.Sc., D.E., F.R.Eng., C.Eng., F.I.C.E., F.I.Struct.E., F.I.E., Hon. F.H.K.I.E., F.I.A.C.M.

The Public Orator, Professor M.M.M. Chan, MA, MPhil, wrote and delivered the following citation:

The gifted have an embarrassment of choices. Our next honorand, Professor Cheung Yau Kai, could have been a physician or a poet or even a singer, but, fortunately for engineering, he chose to be a civil engineer. Y.K. Cheung was born in Hong Kong in 1934 and won scholarships to both the Medical and Arts Faculties of the University of Hong Kong on the basis of his excellent results. He studied medicine for one year, after which, fired with patriotism and a desire to participate more directly in the construction of China, he returned to the Mainland to study civil engineering at the South China Institute of Technology, obtaining his B.Sc. in 1958. As it turned out, Medicine's loss became Engineering scholarship's gain, for Y.K. Cheung was to distinguish himself in his profession, becoming an international expert in his field.

He went on to obtain a Ph.D. at the University of Wales in 1964; the University subsequently awarded him a D.Sc. for publications from 1964 to 1972. In 1982 the University of Adelaide also awarded him a higher doctorate, a D.E., for publications from 1973 to 1981. He has had a long and illustrious career: starting as an Assistant Engineer in Zhengzhou in Henan Province, he went on to teach and research on four continents--Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. He has undertaken many consultancy projects as well, not just on these four continents, but on a fifth - Africa. He held his first Chair in Civil Engineering at the University of Calgary; he then went on to become Professor of Civil Engineering and Chairman of Department at the University of Adelaide. But the University of Hong Kong beckoned and because of his attachments to his family, to Hong Kong and to our University he returned, and has rendered us loyal service for what amounts to almost a quarter of a century, and he will continue to benefit the University with his teaching and research expertise. Even now he is supervising four Ph.D. students.

He returned to be Professor and Head of Civil Engineering, becoming the year after his arrival Dean of Engineering and Architecture, and then Dean of Engineering when Architecture became a separate unit. In all he held the Deanship for over nine years, until he went on to become Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 1988, remaining in that role until the end of 1998. While serving as Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheung took on for a two-year period the post of Acting Registrar. From July 1996 until the present Professor Cheung has been Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor. We Chinese have a saying, "The capable have to carry the burden of much labour". This is certainly the case with Professor Cheung who performed all his onerous administrative duties while carrying a heavy load of teaching, supervision and research. And all this was combined with other professional commitments.

He has left a lasting mark on his department; Y.K. Cheung is justly proud of having built the Civil Engineering Department up to a level when it can lay claim to being a world-class department which has achieved international recognition and won abundant research funding. It attracts top-notched students and provides consultants for major engineering projects. Professor Cheung has always taken his role as guiding spirit of his department very seriously; he has worked hard to find donors for scholarships for deserving students, organized international conferences and facilitated exchange between our University and those on the Mainland.

During the course of his long and fruitful career Professor Cheung has successfully supervised 24 Ph.D.'s, 15 M.Phil.'s and 9 Postdoctoral Fellows. His students are active all over Europe, America, Asia and Australia, many holding prominent positions as engineering scholars. "Let those teach others who themselves excel." Y.K. Cheung has taught thousands and he himself most certainly excels. His record of achievement as a researcher and practitioner more than speaks for itself.

He is internationally recognized for his distinguished research achievements in the field of computational mechanics. An early achiever, he started his research career in 1962, at a time when the electronic computer development was still in its infancy; he was one of the pioneers in developing the Finite Element Method particular to plate and shell analysis. In 1965 he completed his research project relating to plate on elastic half space and proposed the combination of the finite element method and stiffness analysis of the elastic foundation. This method was later expanded in use. He co-authored the first finite element method text and wrote the first finite element software and applied it to the analysis of the Clywedog Dam in Wales. He proposed the finite strip method and published the first book on this method, a book which was subsequently translated into Chinese. Professor Cheung has also done ground-breaking research into strong nonlinear vibration analysis. To date Y.K. Cheung has authored or co-authored ten reference texts, 291 international refereed journal papers and 132 conference papers, 17 of them being keynote or invited papers. He is also editor of 9 international conference proceedings. According to a reliable survey the number of Professor Cheung's citations at the time of the survey already exceeded 3.400.

Y.K. Cheung has also more than proved his mettle in the field as an engineering practitioner. His consulting experience spans continents: the projects on which he has acted as consultant include the analysis of Clywedog Dam in Wales, Niger Dam in Africa, the Ecofisk Oil Tank in the North Sea, St Clouds Bridge in France, a seepage analysis of Crowchild Trail in Canada and - closer to home - a wind load analysis of a thirty-three storey building model on Robinson Road. He has participated as Chairman, co-chairman or vice-chairman or member on international committees of almost 100 international conferences and has delivered some twenty keynote or invited speeches worldwide. It is physically tiring just to leaf through the record of his achievements.

He still finds time to serve on the editorial boards of learned journals, not just in a nominal capacity but giving full measure of his time and expertise. I do not propose to give an exhaustive list: he serves as the Australasian editor of the Journal of Sound and

Vibration and is the Chairman of the editorial board of Thin Walled Structures and issue editor of Progress in Structural Engineering and Materials.

Y.K. Cheung has also taken time from his punishing schedule to take part in public service, making use of his knowledge and experience. He was a Member of the Consultative Committee of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Committee for the Election Republic of China, a Hong Kong Affairs Advisor and also Member of the Selection of the Provisional Legislature and Chief Executive Officer of the SAR of Hong Kong. He has served and is still serving on other committees requiring his expertise and experience, for example, the Government's Consultative Committee on the New Airport and Related Projects, and the Jockey Club Research and Information Centre for Landslip Prevention and Land Development. Professor Cheung also participates in the activities of professional and learned societies - he is, for example, Vice-President of the International Association for Computational Mechanics and Senior Vice-President of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers. Since 1995 he has been a Trustee of the Croucher Foundation.

A man of Y.K. Cheung's ability and energy and achievements can hardly fail to win recognition, and the record of his awards and honours is impressive indeed. Again I shall only attempt a partial listing. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1987; he was awarded the National Science Award (China) in 1990 for pioneering the development and application of the finite strip method and won the Concrete Society Award (UK) in 1994. He was awarded an OBE in 1995. Y.K. Cheung is certainly an honourable man - a man laden with honours. He has an Honorary Doctorate from the Shanghai University of Technology, an Honorary Fellowship from the University College of Swansea; he is an Honorary Fellow, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and of the Singapore Structural Steel Society. He holds Honorary Professorships at no less than 16 institutions. Last year alone he received Honorary Professorships from the University of Sydney, the China University of Geosciences and Nanjing University. He also received a most coveted accolade: he was elected as Member of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences in November 1999.

The account of Cheung Yau Kai's career and achievements may leave one feeling not a little awed, but Y.K. wears his intellect and his abilities lightly. A familiar figure around the campus, he is jovial and friendly. He seems as proud of the quality of his bass voice, prowess at karaoke and his ability to recite poems by Li Po through Herrick to Wordsworth as of his pioneering research in the finite element method. He takes joy in simple things - hikes and music. One could say he has not missed out on the ordinary pleasures of life - he has gathered "his rosebuds...", as it were. The University lost a distinguished alumnus when Y.K. Cheung forsook his medical studies with us way back in 1954; we are now availing ourselves of the opportunity to claim him as one of our own. Mr. Pro-Chancellor, in recognition of his distinguished career as an engineering scholar, for his contributions to public service and for his outstanding service to the University I call upon you to confer on Professor Cheung Yau Kai the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.