The Public Orator Professor Leonard Kenneth Young, B.A., D.PHIL., wrote and delivered the following citation:
When I sat down to write Ellen Li's citation it occurred to me that I should follow local usage and only accord her three-quarters of the amount of space allowed the other graduates. Then, as I studied her career and came to realize her immense contribution to women's rights, I suspected that if I did so I would be in danger of being out-dated. Thus in recognition of her achievement and if my oratory permits I will give her the full allowance she so richly deserves.
Ellen Li's distinctiveness emerged at an early age when she was the only little girl at a boy's school. She so impressed the headmaster that he gave her the name Sau Kuan, meaning 'the most accomplished of the crowd', and this she has remained ever since. She was one of the few women to select a training in business administration at the University of Shanghai, arousing both interest and apprehension in that hard-headed and masculine business world. After a period of service in the Chinese Maritime Customs she moved to Hong Kong in 1934. Her decision has been a fortunate one for the Colony. During the depression years of the 'thirties' in Hong Kong as elsewhere social consciousness was at an extremely low ebb. Nor was our situation made easier by the stream of countless refugees who came to us before, during and after the war. With a few dedicated citizens, some of whom are with her on this platform today, Ellen Li worked unreservedly in their welfare, exploring new areas of social activity as the dimensions of the task increased. She founded the Hong Kong Chinese Women's Club and the Hong Kong Council of Women. She encouraged and extended the activities of the Y.W.C.A., serving repeatedly as its President, a position which she holds today. Her work in the Family Planning Association deserves special mention. In the field of education she has served as a member of the University Court since 1948, and on the councils of a number of schools. She has been a respected member on as many Government committees. She firmly maintains that her contribution in all these fields of activity has been a very ordinary one and that she has merely been of nuisance value in the things she has done. Others have put a different value on her contributions, and as a result she enjoy the longest record of public service of any woman in Hong Kong. She has a clear and far-sighted vision of training for leadership with an emphasis on youth. When we spoke she outlined the concept, startling in its sanity, that not only the poor need services but the rich as well. It is a mark of her achievement that she will be the first local woman, second only to royalty, to receive an honorary degree.
Mr. Chancellor, when we consider the immense task in social welfare which faces us in Hong Kong I would that I could conjure up for you regiments of women in the stamp of Ellen Li. In the conviction that the distinction about to be conferred on her will prove an inspiring example to those who follow I respectfully request you to confer on her the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.