Citations and Speeches


180th Congregation (2009)

Robert HO Hung Ngai
Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa

It has been wisely said that `art and religion are two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstasy'. If such be true, Dr Robert Hung Ngai Ho has ignited the path to ecstasy for us all.

Dr Robert Ho was born in 1932 in Hong Kong. He is the grandson of Sir Robert Ho Tung and Lady Clara Ho Tung and the son of General Ho Shai Lai. He was educated at Lingnan and Pui Ching Middle Schools and obtained his BA from Colgate University, New York and his Masters of Science degree in Journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

Dr Ho first worked as a reporter with the Pittsburgh Press in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, then with the National Geographic Magazine and joined the Kung Sheung Daily News which was established by his late grandfather, Sir Robert Ho Tung. Whilst pursuing his career in journalism he spent much of his time in managing his family's property and investment business. He retired from journalism in 1987 and has since focused his energies on philanthropic activities.

Dr Ho believes that the arts are fundamental to the growth and health of society and that every person should have the opportunity, not only to appreciate art, but to participate in its creation. He put this philosophy into action in 2005 when he founded the Robert HN Ho Family Foundation which aims to foster Chinese arts and culture as a means of understanding between China and the world and to promote a deeper understanding of Buddhist philosophy internationally and to apply its insights to the practice of creativity.

To promote creative education the Foundation has been running an innovative arts education project called `Through Our Eyes'. Now in its third year, it has helped more than one thousand students to find their own voice through photography and creative writing. Other creative projects include one for literary arts, and another for dance in co-operation with the world famous Cloud Gate Dance Troupe in Taiwan.

To help revitalize traditional Chinese arts, the Foundation has been supporting performances of the modernized version of the classic Kunqu opera developed by the renowned Chinese writer Pai Hsien Yung at major universities throughout Hong Kong and Mainland China. Kunqu is the essence of traditional Chinese performing arts containing an artistic blend of poetry, painting, music, singing, dance and drama. Its achievements in the realms of literature, drama, music and fine art have nurtured every Chinese opera form, earning Kunqu the accolade of `the mother of a hundred opera forms'.

The Foundation has also established several schemes to nurture young artists of outstanding potential. To help bridge training and professional life the Foundation Orchestral Fellowships annually offer 10 internships to young Chinese instrumentalists with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. At the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts the Foundation offers 6 full scholarships for talented instrumentalists studying at the School of Music.

The Foundation also sponsors numerous projects to encourage cross-cultural understanding between China and the world and to promote Chinese art and culture worldwide. The Foundation supported the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra's tour of Canada in 2007 and a three-month exhibition at the Palace Museum in Beijing called `Britain meets the World' at which 111 pieces of art from the British Museum were exhibited. In 2008 the Foundation sponsored further exhibitions in New York and San Francisco.

In addition to his passion for promoting Chinese arts and culture, Dr Ho is also very active in projects to increase modern understanding of the teachings of the Buddha. He has explained that his vision

`is to see Buddhism not just as a religion predominant in Asia but to be more widely known and better understood by the international community. Buddhism, like many other religions, has been an integral part of our global cultural development and will continue to grow in harmony with our society globally'.

In April 2009 a permanent gallery sponsored by the Foundation opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to exhibit Buddhist Art of Asia, the first such permanent gallery in the United Kingdom.

Dr Ho's contribution to this University has been immense. He made a major donation to help establish the Centre of Buddhist Studies and has provided the Centre with significant continuing support. It is indeed prospering. He also created an Endowed Professorship in Buddhist Art and Culture. Perhaps most in the public eye is the recently created `Buddhistdoor' web-site, which he sponsored and which, according to Google, is the most visited web-site on Buddhism. The web-site, in which Dr Ho maintains a very vigorous personal interest, was launched with the aim of fulfilling Dr Ho's ardent vision of making full use of modern technology to enhance the propagation of the Buddha's teachings.

Dr Ho has ably perpetuated the legacy of his grandparents, and particularly Lady Clara Ho Tung, in his philanthropic work. His contribution to the arts, particularly Chinese arts, has been quite remarkable. So has his contribution to the understanding and enhancement of Buddhism. In an era where so much emphasis is placed on knowledge and the quest for material success, we must be very grateful to Dr Ho for constantly reminding us of the importance in our lives of art and creativity. In the words of Plutarch:

`The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited'.

Dr Ho thankfully continues to ignite our minds and spirit.

Mr Pro Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to present Dr Robert Ho Hung Ngai for the award of Doctor of Social Sciences Honoris Causa.

Citations written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator.