New Chinese Alumni Group Pledges $1 Million for Growth
Launch ceremony marks Brown’s first trip to Beijing as president
In the late 1970s, China’s communist regime allowed only a handful of students to attend foreign universities and colleges each year. But a recent gathering at the JW Marriott Hotel in Beijing proved that times have changed. Not only was the first Boston University Alumni Association of China (BUAAC) launched, almost 600 members strong, but the group has banded together to pledge $1 million to the University.
“It’s an absolutely spectacular, hard-to-describe feeling,” says Scott Nichols, vice president of development and alumni relations. “The loyalty of alumni in that part of the world has really been extraordinary.”
Nichols was a member of the BU delegation that recently attended the association’s launch ceremony and networking event in Beijing, dubbed BU Meets China: An Alumni Celebration and Global Investment Forum. The day-and-a-half-long gathering, which featured panel discussions such as Business and Investment Opportunities in Olympic China, was the first worldwide business event for the entire BU alumni community. The forum drew hundreds of alumni from 11 countries, mainly in Asia.
President Robert A. Brown, in his first visit to China as head of the University, gave the keynote address and presented the newly formed BUAAC with an official banner. Brown says he’s “very excited by the commitment and leadership of our alumni in China who chose to launch the formal presence of Boston University in China with such a bang.”
“Their energy is symbolic of the entrepreneurism that exists there today,” Brown says. “Besides a great deal of discussion about Boston University, the 200 or so participants did a lot of professional networking.”
The driving force behind both the BUAAC and the global investment forum was Hugo Shong (COM’87, GRS’92), president of IDG China, chairman of China Venture Capital Association, and a University trustee.
“There are almost 600 BU alumni working in China and doing quite well in their fields and in terms of wealth,” says Shong, who will serve as BUAAC president. “So I came up with this idea to make a pledge of $1 million in five years. Everyone was very excited. We thought it would be a good gift to Bob and to BU, because we all got a lot of good benefit from our education at Boston University.”
The million dollar pledge is the first such collective gift to the University. The money will be disbursed over five years. “We don’t have any specific limitations or restrictions,” Shong says. “The money is for Bob’s disposal. The only requirement is that it must be China-related — for programs related to China, or to sponsor scholars from China, or to send BU scholars to do fieldwork in China. We don’t know what kind of challenges exist, or what areas Bob wants BU to improve regarding its China program.”
The University currently has two exchange programs with China — at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and at Fudan University in Shanghai — and recently signed an agreement with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing for a faculty exchange. An intensive summer language program at the Beijing Institute of Education is also offered. As of fall 2007, some 650 students from China were enrolled at BU, representing the largest bloc of the University’s almost 5,000 foreign students.
Steve Karbank (CAS’79), president of the BU Alumni Council, describes the Beijing event as electric.
“Many alumni stood and talked about the impact that BU had on them, which, in many cases, was deeply moving,” he recalls. “Also, the friendships that the alumni had made among their other Asian peers was something to behold. Alumni from Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan, Korea — not knowing one another from their student years, but just from meeting at prior events — had clearly established good and close friendships and business ties, as well.”
The University has more than 50 alumni associations and groups around the world, comprising some 270,000 members. Karbank says he was especially impressed with the Chinese alumni because they are younger and fewer in number compared to other alumni groups. He and Nichols agree that the Asia community has become a model for alumni activities around the world.
“We had some people from other universities attending,” Nichols says. “They all said they knew of nothing like this.”
Caleb Daniloff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments