On April 30th W. John Kao was sworn in as the new president of NTHU. The occasion was marked by a ceremony in which he received the official school seal from his predecessor, Hocheng Hong. In his inaugural address, President Kao affirmed his commitment to leading Tsing Hua University in meeting the educational challenges of the future while holding fast to its core values of self-governance, academic freedom, equity, inclusiveness, and diversity.
Due to the pandemic, the scaled-back ceremony was broadcast live online, and in-person participation was limited to President Kao, former president Hocheng, political deputy minister of the Ministry of Education Lio Mon-chi, Selection Committee convener Liang Kung-yee, and Alumni Association president Cai Jinbu.
President Kao said that he was honored to join the Tsing Hua family, and that in addition to continuing NTHU's commitment to interdisciplinary education and diversity in faculty and student recruitment, he plans to consolidate the university's emphasis on science, engineering, humanities, and social sciences, and to expand its role as a comprehensive research university. President Kao plans to meet these objectives while thinking globally and acting locally in consonance with Tsing Hua's core values, so as to strengthen diversified whole-person education as well as post-graduation counseling.
President Kao's academic background is in biomedical engineering, with a focus on translational medicine, which connects basic medical research to clinical applications. He began his academic career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he taught for 18 years. During his tenure as the vice president of the University of Hong Kong, he implemented a BOT model for the 2,000-bed Hong Kong University Shenzhen Teaching Hospital. His related experience will be invaluable as he guides the development of medical education at National Tsing Hua University.
President Kao said that NTHU's early emphasis on nuclear science placed it in a good position to become a leading center for the development of boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT), and that to date this treatment has provided a new lease on life to over 200 cancer patients from around the world, demonstrating the results of translational medicine. He is also keen on strengthening Tsing Hua's value chain by expanding basic research and cooperation with industry.
Although President Kao was born in Taiwan, he has lived overseas for many years, and when he arrived in Taiwan at the beginning of April he had to undergo the mandatory ten-day quarantine, plus seven days of self-health management. He noted that due to the pandemic he has not been able to visit his relatives and friends in Taiwan for the past three years, and said that “It feels so good to be home!” Nonetheless, he was disappointed that due to the pandemic, his parents, relatives, and friends living in Longtan, Taoyuan, were unable to attend the inauguration ceremony.
President Kao noted that the original guest list included his uncle, the Taiwanese film director Wu Nien-jen, adding with a grin that he played the key role of chaperone when Wu was courting his aunt.
The ceremony also marked the end of Hocheng Hong's presidency, the longest in NTHU's recent history. Former president Hocheng said that he is confident that the selection committee has chosen the best candidate for the job, and that President Kao has the breadth of vision and boundless energy required for leading the school as it enters its next phase of development.
Hocheng smilingly recalled that during his own inauguration ceremony eight years ago, “The outgoing president congratulated me on landing a plum job, but I now know that he should have been consoling me for being tricked into accepting a position which requires non-stop travel, sometimes with a cello in tow, giving speeches on a daily basis, and even conducting all-night negotiations with disgruntled students.
Hocheng also took the opportunity to say that he feels highly honored to have had the opportunity to serve as the president of such a prestigious university with a century of history. He felt as though he was standing on the shoulders of giants, which gave him the courage to overcome any difficulty and to go beyond his own limitations, adding that “In my heart I will always be at Tsing Hua!”
Hocheng observed that the school's first phase, “NTHU 1.0,” began with the establishment of Tsing Hua College in Beijing, and focused on integrating Chinese and Western culture. During the second phase, “NTHU 2.0,” which began in the 1960s, the two Tsing Huas—one in Beijing and one in Taiwan—developed separately, and the emphasis shifted to science and technology. During the current phase, “NTHU 3.0,” in which Hocheng himself has played a key role, the emphasis has shifted to integrating science and technology with the humanities and social sciences. Indeed, during Hocheng's tenure, a quarter of the university's graduates had a double specialization, and a quarter of its faculty members have conducted interdisciplinary research. He has also been instrumental in expanding and diversifying research and teaching in such fields as medicine, semiconductors, political economy, education, and art.
Hocheng is also a highly skilled fundraiser, and during his tenure he attracted nearly NT$6 billion in donations. In addition, he raised NT$2.6 billion for NTHU's merger with the National Hsinchu University of Education (NHCUE), NT$3 billion for the establishment of the Taipei School of Economics and Political Science (TSE), and NT$36 billion for the College of Semiconductor Research (CoSR). He also expanded the campus by 22 hectares, an increase of 17%, through such additions as the Nanda Campus and the NTHU Hospital.
Lio Mon-chi(劉孟奇), who served on the Selection Committee, said that among the many highlights of Hocheng's impressive eight years at the helm were the establishment of the Post-baccalaureate Program in Medicine and the implementation of various reforms for increasing student diversity.
Lio said that he has been looking forward to this event for the past six months, adding that President Kao's extensive international experience, global perspective, can-do attitude, and excellent communication skills convinced the Committee that he is highly qualified to lead NTHU as it enters its next stage of development.
Liang Kung-yee(梁賡義) is a graduate of NTHU and currently serves as the president of the National Health Research Institutes. He said that the Selection Committee was highly impressed with Kao's modesty, concern for higher education, positive energy, and international outlook.
Alumni Association president Tsai Jinbu welcomed President Kao on behalf of NTHU alumni around the world. He said that Kao is the youngest individual appointed as president of NTHU since it adopted its current selection system in 1994, and that his modesty, restraint, and optimistic outlook will go a long way in promoting a sense of unity throughout the school, including among alumni, who can be counted on for their continued support.
Among the many guests in virtual attendance were former NTHU president Chen Wen-tsuen(陳文村), University System of Taiwan chancellor Chen Lih-juann(陳力俊), NYCU president Lin Chi-hung(林奇宏), NCU president Chou Jing-yang(周景揚), NCCU president Kuo Ming-cheng(郭明政), NCKU president Su Huey-jen(蘇慧貞), Mexican representative to Taiwan Martin Torres, Macronix chairman Wu Miin-chyou(吳敏求), CEO of E. SUN Commercial Bank N.C. Huang(黃男州), Pegatron Technology chairman Tung Tzu-hsien(童子賢), and National Federation of Teachers' Unions chairman Hou Junliang(侯俊良).
NTHU's new president W. John Kao (right) receiving the official school seal from his predecessor, Hocheng Hong (left), with political deputy minister of the Ministry of Education Lio Mon-chi (center) as the facilitator.
Onsite participants (left to right): Selection Committee convener Liang Kung-yee, Hocheng, Lio, Kao, and Alumni Association president Tsai Jinbu. Online participants can be seen on the screen.
Hocheng and Kao making a pandemic-style “elbow shake.”
At the ceremony, from left to right: NTHU senior vice president Tai Nyan-hwa, Tsai, Hocheng, Kao, Liang, and chief of staff King Chung-da.
Kao being sworn in as president of NTHU.
Kao (right) receiving his letter of appointment from Lio.
Hocheng said that he is highly honored to have served as the president of such a prestigious university with a century of history.
Kao said that he is keen on strengthening Tsing Hua's value chain by expanding basic research and cooperation with industry.
Lio (left) presenting Hocheng with a memento in recognition of his many contributions to NTHU.
Due to the pandemic, the scaled-back ceremony was broadcast live online.
Kao (right) receiving the official school seal from Hocheng (left), with Lio (center) as the facilitator.
Kao being sworn in as president of NTHU.