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徐立之

第195屆 

頒授典禮

 (2016)

徐立之

名譽科學博士

Mr Pro-Chancellor, President Mathieson, members of the academic procession, fellow honorary graduates, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

May I begin by thanking the University for awarding me an honorary doctoral degree, which is very special to me, and for asking me to speak on behalf of my fellow graduates:

• Victor Dzau - a world renowned cardiologist and geneticist, as well as a preeminent academic leader, whom I got to know from many international panels and committees on which we both served, especially in Canada where he received part of his early trainings;

• Mary-Claire King - trained as a classical human geneticist, from whom I learned a lot when I started my own career, following her footsteps in genetic disease studies, but far from her commitments to helping patients and families, and serving the cause of justice;

• Elsie Leung - an eminent HKU alumna who is well known to the people in Hong Kong for her appointment as the first Secretary for Justice on 1 July 1997; and for her significant contributions in safeguarding the rule of law in Hong Kong;

and, last but not the least,

• Lui Che Woo - a highly successful, self-made entrepreneur and businessman, who has demonstrated his leadership in philanthropy and caring of society, particularly through the establishment a significant Prize for Human Civilisation, to promote sustainability, global welfare and positive energy, which are so very much needed today. I probably know Dr Lui the best among all the graduates here, because I had the fortune of working with him on the Lui Prize and writing a preface for his biography recently.

Sharing the day with these four intellectual giants, leaders of their own right in their respective professional fields, and at the same time, good friends of mine, is truly a singular honour for me.

I would also like to thank the Public Orator, Professor Michael Wilkinson, for portraying me in such glowing terms!

Basically, I am not an ambitious person; it is perhaps my instinct of spotting opportunities and caring for details that made me successful as a scientist and, further, my belief in teamwork, the importance of communication, and my ability to work with people had helped me get to where I am today.

When I was performing genetic and disease gene research in the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, I had a group of highly dedicated associates, assistants and trainees. It was really their hard work and perseverance that led to our discovery of the gene for cystic fibrosis and our contributions to the study of the human genome. My share of contribution to the team was probably just my positive attitude and occasional scientific insights.

When I was here at HKU, I had a group of absolutely brilliant and hardworking staff, both academic and non-academic, and a bunch of most loyal alumni and highly supportive friends (many of them are present in this hall this afternoon). However, among the list of strategies that my senior management team and I had devised, "building a cohesive university family of staff, students, alumni and friends" was probably the most important one that propelled the university in many aspects over my twelve years of tenure here.

Clearly, I have been blessed most of the time; however, I always put in my best effort, work hard, and, at the same time, have my eye open for new opportunities. Moreover, I am always prepared to listen to others, willing to learn new things, not afraid to seek advice, and yet critical on myself. I am a strong believer in life-long learning. These may have been the traits that prepared me well for being a successful scientist and, later, a university administrator. However, how many university presidents would have the fortune of seeing his or her institution celebrate its centenary?

Ladies and gentlemen, as HKU progresses, the world has also been advancing.

First of all, I think my fellow honorary graduates would agree with me that science and technology are advancing at an unprecedented pace. Developments in transportation and communication have shortened the distance between places.

The world is really getting smaller and smaller, whereas issues and problems are getting bigger, and more intricate.

Everyday we are confronted with novel situations and ill-defined problems. Meanwhile, society is seeing fewer moral certainties but more moral dilemmas. These are just some of the major issues confronting us since the arrival of the 21st century.

The world needs technologists and scientists, and it equally needs arts graduates and many other forms of expertise. This intellectual cross-fertilisation is important not only at the society level but also at the personal level. Under globalisation, there are greater demands for individuals with multiple skills and the abilities to innovate and lead.

Of course, the role of higher education for knowledge economy is to produce highly qualified personnel for different needs on the one hand, but, the role of universities is not just to create and transmit knowledge and train competency in their students, but rather, to instill value to the next generation of leaders.

I would like to say that I learned a great deal during my tenure here at HKU. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who have worked with me, supported me over the years, and those who have continued to give me encouragement and wise counsel.

I would particularly like to thank Dr Victor Fung, the former Council Chairman, who recruited me and gave me the window of opportunity to serve this great institution of higher learning, and Dr CH Leong, the immediately past Council Chairman, for his continued support.

I hope you would all agree with me that a cohesive family of staff, students, alumni and friends is the most important ingredient of this university.

I am sure you will work with Professor Mathieson in the same spirit of partnership and commitment that you did with me, and I look forward to seeing this great University of Hong Kong continue to go from strength to strength in the years to come.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, members of the university, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for allowing me to share with you some of my stories and thoughts.

Thank you very much.

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