Citations and Speeches

Citations

84th Congregation (1973)

Gordon KING
O.B.E., M.D., F.R.C.S., F.R.C.O.G., F.R.A.C.S.

The Public Orator Professor Leonard Kenneth Young, B.A., M.A., D.PHIL., wrote and delivered the following citation:

Mr. Chancellor: from the time of the Cabots, the famous and ancient port of Bristol - that haven for the shipping of the European world - has nurtured in the hearts of its citizens the spirit of adventure and discovery. In those Renaissance times, the popular cry was 'Westward Ho'. Nearly 400 years later the same yearning spirit was still present. It stirred the imagination of a young lad attending that nursery of talent, Bristol Grammar School. But in the early days of the 20th century, the call came from the other side of the world. It rang out: 'Go East, young man, go East'. So, like Ulysses, he foresook the comforts and prospects of his native land, and ventured his frail bark into unknown seas, where capricious currents surged over hidden reefs, and where angry Oriental gods blew tempests and typhoons. But the vessel came safely through, and the master, fortified by strange and sometimes perilous experience, stands before us today - a born leader, a great medical educationalist, who has substantially enhanced the well-being of those areas in which he has laboured over many years.

As preparation for his chosen career Gordon King first qualified in 1926 as an obstetrician and gynaecologist at the London Hospital, becoming a Foundation Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1930. It may seem curious that a young man with a taste for high adventure should choose to become a 'mothers' boy. Nevertheless, as we follow the pattern of his unfolding career we realize that his versatility has matched his professional virtuosity, and that he has been a King in action in his practice of delivering the needy.

In 1927, when a youthful Chiang K'ai-shek was engaged on his Northern Expedition and the warlords were being scattered to the winds, Gordon King was to be found at the Peking Union Medical College sustaining the natural pattern of life. Four years later, as the thunder of war reverberated in the east and a resurgent Japan established the state of Manchukuo, sending her cohorts into China's coastal provinces, he established himself in Shantung where he practised his calling at Cheeloo University for seven years.

By 1938 he had moved to Hong Kong where he became Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University, becoming Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 1940. Gordon King's exploits as the University's wartime Dean have become part of our mythology. As the tide of war rolled over the Colony, almost as a matter of course he took over the duties of medical officer in charge of the University Relief Hospital. Then, faced with the prospect of being interned, he decided that it was better to burn in action than to rust unused and escaped into Free China. From Chungking, he proved the truth of the old adage that a university is more than the buildings in which it is housed. He organized assistance for over 350 students including 141 medicals, ensuring the continuation of their studies. Because of his efforts, sixty-three young doctors were able to graduate during the war, with degrees recognized by a special Order-in-Council and registered under the terms of the Hong Kong Ordinance.

Such an outstanding achievement is but part of Gordon King's contribution to the development of this University. During his eighteen years as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, when he was three times Dean and once Pro-Vice-Chancellor, he built up a talented and effective department whose students reflected the exacting standards set for them. One of these, Professor Daphne Chun, received an honorary degree from this University last year.

During the post-war years of reconstruction he extended the activities of the Tsan Yuk Hospital and trained its staff to an awareness not only of the dangers of dietary deficiency but also of the importance of adequate ante-natal cafe. His endeavours were rewarded by a population explosion, which doubled his work and called for the construction of a new and larger hospital. It was largely due to Gordon King's persuasion that the Jockey Club provided three and a half million dollars for this work. We have now become accustomed to the munificence of our associations and public minded citizens, but this was the first of the large single donations ever made.

Mr. Chancellor, it was unthinkable that this 'king' should rest from travel or cetase from toil while 'some work, of noble note' could yet be done. In 1956, on his retirement from the University, he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the newly formed Medical School of the University of Western Australia. Then in 1966, on his retirement from that post, he was invited by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, at the request of the Government of Kenya, to establish a Medical School in Nairobi, which has now become the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Nairobi, producing its first graduates in 1972. After displaying his virtuosity in this highly effective way in two of our newest continents, he turned back in 1971 to the oldest. He was invited by the World Health Organization, to report and make recommendations on medical education in Taiwan, and was then appointed Director of the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, the position which he holds at the present time.

Gordon King has had an adventurous and purposeful career: there has been no waste, never a sign of rust. He has lived life to the full, strengthened by adversity and energized by crisis. It is not idle rhetoric to conclude that countless people of many lands have shared the benefits of his manifold endeavours. To these he has shown himself a scrupulous practitioner of his craft, a skilled administrator, and a resourceful medical educationalist. Rejecting the security, of a parochial existence he has quested far horizons, demonstrating by a lifetime of service that 'the twain' East and West can meet to the mutual advantage of both. We would have you recognize this achievement, Mr. Chancellor, by conferring on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.