Dr. Gene Wong (’49)
On Friday, January 26, 1996, Acadia moved from Wolfville to Hong Kong. It was done to bestow an honorary doctorate on a man who once made an even more miraculous journey to the Wolfville campus. Significantly, then alumni director Steve Pound (’72) referred to the trip as “a homecoming.” (Visit tribute website that contains citations.)
Dr. Gene Wong (’49) was the first Acadia graduate of Chinese descent, and that makes him a genuine pioneer. When he first arrived, there was no official to help him cope with culture shock and the loneliness that comes with being separated from friends and family on the other side of the world. There was no place for him to go to meet with other foreign students.
Acadia is now a place of diversity, with students representing 50 countries from around the world interacting with those from Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada. But before this, Gene Wong blazed a trail to Acadia and made the journey easier for generations of international students to come.
“His support for others, and particularly those from Chinese communities coming to North America, is legendary,” said former Acadia president and Canadian Senator Dr. Kelvin Ogilvie (’63).
“Acadia to me has always had a triple-A rating,” said Wong at the opening of the Wong International Centreon the campus in 1997. Ogilvie pointed out, “we have the highest percentage of international students among universities in the country. This is a great tribute to the cultural diversity of the community.” Ogilvie has called Wong, “a magnificent role model to society,” adding that his story proves “Acadia has diligently pursued and enhanced the splendid vision of its founders.”
After Acadia, Wong went on to great success as a restaurateur in New Brunswick and then moved to Vancouver, where his storybook life took another turn. His business acumen led him to found the Yorkshire Trust Bank, Chinatown Branch, and the Pacific Trust Company. He went on to expand south of the border, purchasing a Seattle shopping centre and becoming president of Jaycees Holdings.
Wong took great pleasure in helping other international students. He sponsored countless numbers of students from China, allowing them to immigrate to Canada. The results of that compassion represent more than mere statistics. He was particularly proud of assisting an impoverished single mother of two to come to Canada. Both children went on to become medical doctors.
In his citation for Dr. Wong at the Hong Kong event, David Green (BA, MA) said, “Canada needs intelligent, hard-working, resilient citizens such as Gene Don Wong to bring it to its potential as a nation, one that still cares for all its citizens.”