Citations and Speeches


166th Congregation (2003)

John Richard CHOA
Doctor of Social Sciences

The Public Orator, Dr Elaine Yee-lin Ho, wrote and delivered the following citation:

For many graduates of the University of Hong Kong and members of the university community, their experience and memory of university life would no doubt include enjoyable times they spent at the Flora Ho Sports Centre on Pokfulam Road. Today, we honour the man whose many contributions to the university are enshrined most visibly in the building and the facilities he designed and planned. The Flora Ho Sports Centre, like its architect, John Richard Choa, has served the university community and enriched its life for many years.

Long before the landmark sports centre, John Choa's active involvement with the university began when he was an undergraduate in Architecture. He distinguished himself among his cohort and graduates of his generation not only in his academic work, but also as a vocal and effective student participant in Architecture's development and expansion as a professional Faculty. As a Class of 1957 student, he met with and impressed the Faculty's Assessors from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), so much so that upon graduation, he was almost immediately employed to work for the firm of one of the Assessors, Cusdin Burden & Howitt in Britain.

In the eleven years of professional life he spent with the firm in England, John Choa developed comprehensive expertise in design, organisation, administration, and project co-ordination. In his interaction and partnership with professionals from other fields, and craftsman and workers from different social strata, John Choa also demonstrated those interpersonal skills that would distinguish him in his later service as a tireless worker on many of the university's committees and alumni organisation.

His specialist portfolio in England was on the design, detailing and administration of university and hospital projects. Today, there are many buildings in the Universities of Durham, Reading, and London, and hospitals in Cambridge that are silent witnesses to his achievements early in his career.

In 1969, in loving consideration of the wish of his wife, the artist Marina Pang Choa, John Choa returned to live in Hong Kong. He joined the firm of Wong & Tung & Associates, and between 1969 and 1973, he contributed to the large estate developments of the time including Mei Foo Sun Chuen and Taikoo Shing that became household names, and continue to stand today as models of Hong Kong's modern project of accommodating its expanding middle-class and their aspiration to a better living environment. The inclusion of private sector projects in his portfolio represented a significant development in John Choa's career, and enabled him to make his mark both within his profession and indeed, on the Hong Kong landscape itself.

Between 1973-1977, while he worked for the firm, Lee, Choa & partners, John Choa also added to his growing list of projects that of the St Andrew's Christian Centre on Nathan Road. The Centre, though on a completely different scale from the estates, shows the same imagination and care for the needs of the users that is the hallmark of a John Choa building. In 1977, he became founding partner of Choa, Ko & Partners, and from then on, for the next twenty years, John Choa was responsible for numerous projects, including not only the Flora Ho Sports Centre but also the Junior Staff Quarters of the university, The Home of Loving Kindness in Shatin, and the restoration of St Andrew's Church Vicarage, private sector estate developments in the new town of Tuen Mun, and apartments in the Mid-levels on Hong Kong island and Kowloon. In each of these projects, different though they were, his constant professional commitment was not only to meeting the demands of clients but also to the provision of the best environment possible for the people who would live in or use the buildings.

It is this commitment to serving the needs of Hong Kong society that prompted John Choa, shortly after his return from England, to renew his connection with his alma mater and become an energetic contributor to Hong Kong University as a lay-person. From 1970 onwards, he has been Executive Committee member of the University's Alumni Association; between 1971-2000, he was Standing Committee Member of Convocation, and from 1979, a member of the Court. He helped to establish the Alumni Prizes for undergraduates which are tenable in all faculties even today. Mr Pro-Chancellor, besides ensuring that our best students are recognised and rewarded, John Choa is one of those far-sighted individuals who much earlier on saw the need for fostering continued links between the university and its graduates through regular social contact. Our alumni are a vital channel for the dialogue between the university and the city which in essential ways depend on each other. For years, John Choa has dedicated himself to keeping that dialogue open, productive and enjoyable.

In his work for the Alumni Association, he organised numerous social functions; many in the university community will remember the pleasurable Saturday afternoons they spent at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and thank John Choa for his work as Founding Member of the Alumni Association's Racing Syndicate. Or the evenings of delightful conversation and superb dining at the Association's premises, the establishment of which again owes much to John Choa's professional expertise and belief in the project.

As Member of Council and ex-officio of Court from 1991, John Choa has served on many Council and Senate committees. These include the Working Parties on Terms of Service and Outside Practice by Teachers, Board of Studies, and then Board of Directors, and Management Board of The School of Professional and Continuing Education, Review Panels on the Department of Politics and Public Administration, the Department of History, and the Estates Office, and the Committee of Management of Robert Black College. On all these committees and boards, and as a stalwart of alumni organisation, John Choa worked tirelessly and effectively, not in order to gain honour or praise for himself, but because he believed that in contributing to the efficient running of the university, he is serving the cause of education that would in turn benefit the community as a whole. All who have worked with him have benefited from his wisdom, advice and encouragement, and appreciated the sincerity and dedication that he brings to his job.

A model HKU graduate, successful in his own profession, who has devoted his life-service, time, and energy to Hong Kong University - Mr Pro-Chancellor, it is with the greatest pleasure that I present John Richard Choa for the award of the Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa.