Rare Chinese artifacts donated to Vincennes University

A man placing an antique Chinese vase into a display case.

October 19, 2017

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VINCENNES, Ind. - College friendships forged 40 years ago prompted the recent donation of rare Chinese artifacts, some more than 1,000 years old, to Vincennes University.

A 1979 VU alumnus, Johnson Wong, traveled from Suzhou in eastern China to donate 44 artifacts from his personal and family collection of art. Joining him were 13 VU alumni, some whom were among 28 Hong Kong students who enrolled at VU in 1977 with Wong. It is the first exhibit of Wong’s artifacts in the U.S.

“This gift is for VU and also for Dr. C.W. Chu,” Wong said, acknowledging the late Hong Kong business leader who sponsored more than 450 students to attend VU beginning in 1965.

“When I graduated from high school I never had any dream of going abroad for education. The Dr. Chu Scholarship is the one that gave us poor students the chance, changing my whole life,” Wong said. In recognition of this, the C.W. Chu Pavilion was dedicated Oct. 14 to house the artifacts inside VU’s new Updike Hall, home of the College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. 

In expressing appreciation for the artifacts, VU President Chuck Johnson said it is appropriate for the artifacts to be exhibited at Updike Hall, since many Hong Kong alumni majored in science and engineering, earning some of VU’s top academic awards.

“When we got to VU we liked it. It was quiet and a good place to study in our first years in the U.S.,” Wong said. “If Dr. Chu had sent me to MIT or Berkeley my first year, I don’t think I could have handled it due to the sudden change.”

After graduating from VU in 1979, Wong pursued his bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in civil engineering at Berkeley, working initially in San Francisco prior to returning to Hong Kong in 1991 and to China in 1994. Today he pursues his art collection while working part-time as a consultant.

“In my high school class in 1977, the majority were just like me, poor students from poor families, but a good school background. That’s why Dr. Chu picked us and it changed all of us,” Wong said.

It is a sentiment shared by classmate Simon Chu, who traveled from Milpitas, California, to be part of the C.W. Chu Pavilion dedication.

“Without Dr. Chu’s support there is no chance a poor student like me and others would have had the opportunity for higher education - not to mention going abroad to the U.S., 6,000 miles away,” Chu said.

Now retired after a career as a research chemist near San Francisco, Chu said he looks for ways to help others, following the example of C.W. Chu, his mentor.

“Vincennes University was really a turning point for me. It is great to be back. I would like to thank VU President [Chuck] Johnson for his vision of putting all this together. It is really a tribute to what education is all about, so we really applaud him. If there is anything our alumni can do, we would like to help,” Chu said.

The dedication of the C.W. Chu Pavilion also included a presentation of an Honorary Doctorate in Education to David Chu, a Hong Kong business leader and chair of the C.W. Chu Foundation, widely recognized for his philanthropic support for education. He is the son of the late C.W. Chu. Accepting the award for Chu was Wai Yee Chan, master of C.W. Chu College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

A leader in the clothing and garment industry, David Chu is the managing director of Regatex Manufacturers Limited, as well as a board member of Industrial Land Investment Company Inc. and Saki Company Limited. He also serves as the managing director of Guangzhou Likang Garment Company Ltd. and Suzhou Liqiang Garment Company Ltd.

In addition to chairing the C.W. Chu Foundation, he is the founder and chair of The Solar Trust, providing scholarships to help university, high school, and primary school students to finish their studies. His goal is to eliminate poverty through knowledge, technology, and education.

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VU is state-supported with campuses in Vincennes and Jasper and additional sites such as Indianapolis, Lebanon, and Gibson County. A leader in developing Early Colleges statewide, VU also offers instruction at military sites throughout the nation.

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