Citations and Speeches


75th Congregation (1970)

Mount Stephen CUMMING
O.B.E., M.A.

The Public Orator Professor Dafydd Meurig Emrys Evans, LL.B., B.C.L., wrote and delivered the following citation:

In 1934, Hong Kong was a far smaller and less important place than it is today. It was but one mercantile centre among many in China and had little industry of its own, its living being principally earned by commerce. It was in that year, Mr. Chancellor, that Mount Stephen Cumming came to Hong Kong to join the firm of Butterfield and Swire. He is now about to leave a Hong Kong which has changed beyond all recognition, which has been transformed visually both in terms of population and environment and the whole basis of whose being has been altered into that of an aggressively industrial society. When the history of this transformation is written, we will see Mr. Cumming's name standing out on the page. He has served this community well and may, in all justice, be recalled by us as one of the makers of modern Hong Kong.

His early career followed the pattern set by so many young men entering a large commercial house in China. After an education at Fettes and Cambridge, where he read Classics and Law, he arrived in Hong Kong and learnt his employer's business here and in Japan and Tsingtao before becoming their agent at Chungking. The War intervened and he served with distinction in France, India and Burma, being mentioned in despatches and being made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. When he returned to China after the cessation of hostilities, the conditions of business were materially altered. Before he finally went to the Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company in 1953, he spent some time in Shanghai as well as playing an important part in establishing the aviation business in Hong Kong. But it is, Mr. Chancellor, to the years since 1953 that I wish to draw the especial attention of this Congregation for it is since that time that we can see his most distinctive and distinguished contribution, to Hong Kong, to its industry, to its people, taking shape.

Mr. Cumming has not used his energy and wisdom for his business pursuits alone. True, his emphasis on the need far improvement in industrial education has been of great and lasting benefit to his company and the in service vocational training schemes at the Taikoo Docks serve as an enviable model for other employers and organizations. But he saw that, if Hong Kong was to do more than hold its own in a competitive world and was to take for itself a larger share of markets, it was necessary for others to understand also the importance of investment in the skill of workers. This is one message which he has preached untiringly and which is now, fittingly perhaps as Mr. Cumming is about to depart, at last gaining increasing acceptance.

Mr. Cumming has, however, led Hong Kong's industrial revolution on other ways. As a founder member of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, he sought to convince fellow industrialists that there was much that they could learn collectively about the problems of industrial expansion and has been prominent in bringing Hong Kong's industries to a new age of diversification and expansion. As a founder-member of the Management Association, he showed the importance of inculcating professional skills and managerial efficiency in our industries and businesses. He is a member of the Productivity Council and Trade Development Council also and has, as such, lent ready and active support to these bodies in expanding the capacities of Hong Kong industry and in creating and exploiting new, overseas markets.

It is not possible to recount the many fields in which Mr. Cumming has generously given his time but we must refer to his service to this University. We have, indeed, been fortunate in having had for some time the benefit of his services as a member ci the Court and Council of this University and of other bodies.

Mr. Chancellor, it is gratifying for us who spend a good deal of our time in the relative seclusion of a Universtity to honour a man who can lav claim to such a long record of concrete achievement in a community which he has made his home and, in so honouring, we invite him to add honour to our academic community also. Mr. Chancellor, I respectfully request you to honour one such man, Mount Stephen Cumming, by conferring on him the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws.