Frank H. Shu (徐遐生), president-emeritus of National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan, passed away on April 22, 2023 at home in Atherton, CA, USA. On the morning of June 17, NTHU held a memorial service with the theme “Illuminating the Night with Shining Stars” to honor his contributions to NTHU and higher education in Taiwan, as well as to remember his voice and laughter. His wife, Helen Pu (濮建平), made a special trip from the United States to attend the memorial service. David Shu, his brother who is over 80 years old, recorded a video to reminisce about their brotherly bond.
President Kao pointed out that the theme “Illuminating the Night with Shining Stars” was chosen to commemorate Shu because he was an astronomer, educator, advocate for sustainable development, and a gentleman of refined manners. He was also a caring man who provided opportunities for students with talent and potential. “He not only defined the universe but also defined the openness of NTHU's education,” President Kao added.
President Kao stated that Shu told people that “we shouldn't admit students based on a single exam,” which led NTHU to initiate the Star Program and interdisciplinary learning. The Star Program has impacted the educations of 3,948 NTHU students and their families, opening up a number of educational opportunities for them and enabling NTHU to discover talented students from diverse backgrounds. “President Shu inspired NTHU, and NTHU has in turn inspired the national admissions system," said President Kao.
Shu's wife, Helen Pu, noted that he was fond of telling people that he retired four times: once from UC Berkeley, once from UC San Diego, once from NTHU, and once from Academia Sinica. She added that, in fact, he was incapable of retiring at all. During the last dozen years of his life, he was deeply concerned about climate change, and he took this up as his life's work. He spent many hours working on ways to mitigate the effects of climate change using molten salt technology. She said she would like to particularly express her gratitude to the NTHU colleagues who are continuing this project in his absence.
“Frank was an eternal idealist and optimist. He believed in the value of a broad liberal education in science and in technology. We are tremendously grateful for the hospitable environment that NTHU provided, and we are delighted that so many NTHU students and faculty keep supporting his vision,” Helen Pu remarked.
The memorial service was hosted by Prof. Ming-chuan Yeh (葉銘泉), who served as secretary-general during Shu's tenure. Special guests in attendance included four former NTHU presidents--Dr. Chao-shiuan Liu (劉兆玄), Prof. Wen-tsuen Chen (陳文村), Prof. Lih-juann Chen (陳力俊), and Prof. Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘). Other guests included Dr. Ronald E. Taam (譚遠培) from Academia Sinica, Prof. Wen-hwa Chen (陳文華) and Prof. Hsin-hsiung Chen (陳信雄), former vice presidents during Shu's tenure, Prof. Chin-tay Shih (史欽泰), former dean of the College of Technology Management, and Mr. Ming-teh Hsu (許明德), former chairman of the Tsinghua Alumni Association.
Shu served as the president of NTHU from 2002 to 2006, and he proposed many innovative management concepts. Prof. Wen-hwa Chen, former vice president of NTHU, said that Shu was dedicated to retaining and attracting talent, and he pioneered the establishment of the "chair professor" system in Taiwan, attracting globally renowned scholars with outstanding academic achievements to advance research and education at NTHU and beyond. He also vividly remembered how Shu showed great respect for these appointments by personally visiting the offices of the first 23 chair professors to present them with certificates.
In addition, Shu pioneered the “Faculty Recruitment” system. Prof. Wen-hwa Chen said that previously, some departments missed out on excellent individuals due to the lack of faculty positions. Shu proposed a series of “Faculty Recruitment Measures,” which broke through the rigid quota restrictions imposed by departments. “Over the past two decades, NTHU has hired many outstanding faculty members, and various departments have experienced significant development and transformation. Shu's contributions cannot be underestimated,” Prof. Chen emphasized.
Former President Hocheng Hong noted that Shu supported the establishment of core courses in general education, reformed the general education system, and established the Institute of Education. During his tenure, the University System of Taiwan was formally established, and discussions began regarding the merger of NTHU and the National Hsinchu University of Education.
Former President Wen-tsuen Chen stated that one of Shu's top priorities upon taking office was to double NTHU's financial resources. When the government initiated the “Aim for the Top University Project," allocating NT$50 billion over five years to twelve universities, Shu successfully secured a subsidy of NT$1 billion for NTHU. When calculated on a per-student basis, NTHU received the highest amount of funding among all universities in Taiwan.
Shu not only had a profound impact on higher education in Taiwan but he was also an internationally renowned theoretical astrophysicist. Hsiang-kuang Chang (張祥光), a professor in the Department of Physics, noted that Shu published a groundbreaking paper in the field of astronomy at the age of 21. He said that Shu used the concept of density waves to explain the spiral arm structure in spiral galaxies, which marked a significant development in galactic dynamics. There is even an asteroid, numbered 18238, named "Frankshu" in honor of Shu's outstanding achievements in the field of astrophysics.
Shu, who always had a warm smile on his face, was known for his friendly and easygoing nature as well as his great sense of humor. According to Prof. Ming-chuan Yeh, Shu often joined students at the snack bar, eating and chatting with them. Shu would even drag him along, and sometimes they would spend hours there, from noon until 2 pm, with different groups of students joining them throughout that time.
Connie Chen (陳彩珠), who served as Shu's secretary for many years, stated that he personally took care of many matters and that he was unwilling to trouble others. He often went to the snack bar himself to buy noodles and walked back to his office carrying the food inside a plastic bag. This occasionally caused misunderstandings, as people mistakenly thought that she, as his secretary, was not fulfilling her duties properly.
Shu was attentive to students' needs and to their development, and he was highly involved in the Meizhu Competition. In memorial videos, his enthusiastic reactions can be seen, jumping up and cheering loudly when NTHU achieved victory. His passionate and approachable demeanor, along with his concern for students, is something that the NTHU community still remembers fondly to this day.
Shu's brother, David Shu, also recorded a video reminiscing about their childhood. The most unforgettable memory for him was when the two brothers, in their youth, worked as newspaper delivery boys for the Chicago Tribune. They even won an award for achieving the highest increase in the number of subscribers during that time.
Shu was born on June 2, 1943, in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. He graduated from the Department of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963 and obtained his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Harvard University in 1968. He subsequently joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley and served as the president of the American Astronomical Society. For his contributions, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.
Shu was elected as an academician at Academia Sinica in 1990. He, along with his father, Shien-siu Shu (徐賢修), who was also an academician at Academia Sinica, had both served as the presidents of NTHU at different times, which is quite an impressive record. When he returned from the United States to take up the position of president of NTHU, he attracted attention from across the international academic community. Many people asked him why he decided to accept the position, and he simply smiled and said, “It's a family business.”
After stepping down as president in 2006, Shu continued to give lectures at NTHU and maintain close relationships with the faculty and students. He also devoted himself to the research of new forms of energy. Before the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019, Shu returned to Taiwan every year to attend NTHU advisory committee meetings, where he offered several pieces of extremely important advice regarding NTHU's recent development.
Due to Shu's love for movies, students from the Department of Music performed a musical suite at today's memorial service, featuring a medley of theme songs from “Titanic” (My Heart Will Go On), “The Prince of Egypt” (When You Believe), “Waterloo Bridge” (Auld Lang Syne), and the classic film score “Right Here Waiting.” Through music, they paid tribute to this highly regarded former president, who was deeply admired by both students and faculty.
NTHU also prepared 100 copies of the book Father and Son: NTHU Heritage and Shu's favorite persimmon cakes as gifts for all the guests attending the memorial service today.
The main library of NTHU is currently hosting a commemorative display titled “Illuminating the Night with Shining Stars: The Legacy of President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu.” The display, located on the first floor of The Circle, showcases the life story of Shu, major events during his tenure, excerpts from the book Father and Son: NTHU Heritage, and some precious English manuscripts. The display is open until July 19th.
Helen Pu (濮建平), wife of President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生), attended the memorial service.
Left to right: Senior Vice President of MAAT Hsiang-liu Wang (王祥騮) (representing Shu's family friend, Dr. Za-lee Moh莫若礪), Chin-tay Shih (史欽泰), former dean of the College of Technology Management, Ming-teh Hsu (許明德), former chairman of the Tsinghua Alumni Association, Dr. Ronald E. Taam (譚遠培) from Academia Sinica, former President Lih-juann Chen (陳力俊), Helen Pu (濮建平), President W. John Kao (高為元), former President Chao-shiuan Liu (劉兆玄), former President Wen-tsuen Chen (陳文村), former President Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘), and former Vice President Wen-hwa Chen (陳文華)
NTHU paid tribute to President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生) through music.
NTHU paid tribute to President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生) through music.
President W. John Kao (高為元) stated that President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生) had a profound impact on NTHU and higher education in Taiwan.
NTHU former President Chao-shiuan Liu (劉兆玄) paid tribute to President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生).
NTHU former President Wen-tsuen Chen (陳文村) stated that President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生) successfully secured a subsidy of NT$1 billion for NTHU from the government's “Aim for the Top University Project.”
NTHU former President Lih-juann Chen (陳力俊) paid tribute to President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生).
Former President Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘) stated that President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生) made significant reforms to the general education system, which had a profound impact on NTHU.
NTHU alumnus Jui-chi Chang (張瑞棋) (center) (Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, 1987) donated a 10-centimeter refracting telescope to the NTHU Astronomy Club following the memorial service.
NTHU prepared 100 copies of the book Father and Son: NTHU Heritage as gifts for the guests attending the memorial service today.
President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生) and his father Shien-siu Shu (徐賢修) had both served as the presidents of NTHU at different times, which is quite an impressive record.
President-Emeritus Frank H. Shu (徐遐生) returned to Taiwan in 2018 to provide advice at the NTHU advisory committee meetings.