If there be in this distinguished audience any undergraduate who may be doubtful of achieving a degree, let him take heart from my case.
The fact that, having come up to his University in 1919 to qualify for a degree, I am being given one in 1961 is, as I informed the Public Orator when he inquired of my history, perhaps my best claim to fame. And the long years I have had to wait for it has made the distinction all the more satisfying to me. Further honour was heaped upon me when you, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, invited me to deliver this address on behalf of my fellow graduates; so that I find myself today in an unaccustomed role, speaking to a gathering which though no doubt critical, is neither a jury that I am haranguing in the interests of some malefactors nor a bench of learned judges who would be sighing to themselves, "the mixture as before".
Small wonder then, that I should have asked to be briefed for this speech. And Mr. Vice-Chancellor's instructions were admirable: "It is customary of course", he wrote, "to say on these occasions how worthy one's fellow graduates are, and that one is at a loss to understand how one happens to be included in such company". The more admirable because, not surprisingly, I had thought of saying exactly that, and with real sincerity, although my instructions would seem to imply that this was merely a pro-forma expression. And I have no doubt but that had any one else amongst us been chosen to make this speech, he would with suitable modesty have uttered the same self-depreciatory remark through, in my considered judgement, it could come more fittingly and truthfully from none other than myself.
When I first went up to Lugard Hall, this was only a budding University. In our five hostels we numbered some three or four hundred students; our Faculties were only three; our lecturers came and went with almost bewildering rapidity; our fame was virtually nil; and we were a male stronghold. However, an early sign of development came within my own time, when in my second or third year, the University was thrown open to women, and one undergraduette, a girl I shall always remember, was enrolled in the Faculty of Arts. She was naturally of great interest to us, not because of any unfamiliarity with sex, for many of us had sisters and, to the best of my information and belief, all of us mothers, but because of her courage in having ventured alone within these portals; for alone, as I have said, she came, and a single, lone undergraduette she remained for some time. I often think that Miss Irving, for that was her name, should be suitably commemorated in one of the women's halls that now grace this University.
The later progress of this University I was to watch from outside. It has gone from strength to strength. Its growth and fame have been properly and fully dwelt upon in this its Jubilee Year. And the last decade has demonstrated that whatever the merits and demerits of teachers migrating from one university to another, there is unquestionable virtue in retaining as long as possible as its head a wisely-chosen appointee such as you are, Mr. Vice-Chancellor.
Speaking as a member of the Portuguese community I could wish that more of us were students here; for many of us who graduated from the various faculties have added luster to the community; and were it not for the large exodus from Hong Kong in the post-war years I am certain that many more would be availing themselves of its advantages.
To me it is a matter of regret, too, that the teaching of Law has not progressed very much beyond the stage when I knew it as a lecturer at the welcome fee of, I think, fifteen dollars an hour. This is perhaps because of the system of education in respect of both branches of the English legal profession, which calls in the one case for a long apprenticeship in a law office and in the other for the eating of a number of dinners at one of the Inns of Court in London. But in Hong Kong today there are some hundred young men and women in articles with solicitors and they would, I feel sure, welcome the introduction in this University of a Law course which would make it easier for them to acquire the theory and principles of the law in its many branches which a busy practitioner has not the time to impart to the pupil in his office. It should not be difficult, by arrangement with the Law Society of Hong Kong and other proper authorities, to shorten the term of a clerk's articles if he has successfully completed such a course. Nor, once the course has proved itself, do I see insuperable obstacles to the eventual holding of the solicitors' final examinations under the auspices of this University.
I began this address with some consolatory remarks intended to cheer a pessimistic undergraduate. As I understand there is a small sprinkling from the student body here today, let me end on the same note: some of you, by reason of circumstance or otherwise, may leave without having taken a degree. I sincerely hope this will not be the case. But if it is, don't allow this to discourage you. Even without a degree you would have benefited largely from your sojourn at this University. That of itself would be testimony that you have enjoyed a measure of luck denied to too many. And whatever career may be yours hereafter, remember that true success is not measured by the number of letters after your name nor by the number of figures on the credit side of your bank balance. I hope that that measure of luck to which I have referred continues, so that you may find that contentment which makes for a happy life.
I add quickly, lest our Vice-Chancellor misinterprets me, that I don not intend to decry the value of graduating. I fully appreciate the significance of a degree, as, as for the honour which has today been bestowed upon my fellow graduates and myself, may I say on behalf of the seven of us that we are highly gratified, more especially as it has been accorded to us in so signal a year for the University. If, with the utmost diffidence, I may voice one small criticism - I wish that tradition permitted these magnificent doctor's robes be accompanied by a less unbecoming hat.