Honorary University Fellow (2017)
When US President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, a high school girl in Stony Brook, New York, was fascinated by the China that was emerging out of isolation. Her cultural curiosity shifted from Europe to China and, as a result, she decided to go to Yale University to study history. By the time she graduated in 1978, most Yale graduates were able to command handsome starting salaries and ready to climb up the academic or social ladder. But Miss Nancy Chapman took a road very much less travelled. At the recommendation of the Yale-China Association, she came to Hong Kong to teach English at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Two years later, she moved on to teach English at the then Hunan Medical College (later known as Xiangya School of Medicine) in Changsha, China, for a year. Hunan in the early 1980s was still a very Maoist society; westerners were skeptically viewed by the authorities as potential spies and as a source of “spiritual pollution”. In spite of such risks, Miss Chapman and her colleagues re-established Yale-China’s relations with the college after a 30-year hiatus. She then returned to Hong Kong to continue her work with Yale-China for another year. These four years of working in two unfamiliar places set in motion the distinguished career of Dr. Chapman’s entire life for public service—to serve young people of other countries through higher education.
Miss Chapman then returned to the US to pursue a doctorate in East Asian Studies at Princeton University. After finishing her comprehensive exams, she went to China again, this time to Guangzhou, where she served as the founding director of the China office of the Institute of International Education. When she came back to the US to write her PhD dissertation, she served simultaneously as the Programme Director of the Lingnan Foundation in managing grants programmes to contribute to the advancement of higher education in South China.
With a PhD degree from Princeton University, Dr. Chapman again ventured into a road less travelled as she was increasingly clear about the calling of her life, viz., to serve in a non-profit organization for the cause of advancing higher education overseas. Dr. Chapman took up the position of Programme Officer for East Asia of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, New York. Afterwards, she was deservedly appointed as the Executive Director of the Yale-China Association, the institution that had nurtured her when she was a fresh college graduate. For 14 years (1994–2008), she led this philanthropic institution to expand its service and built partnerships with a wide range of US entities at Yale and beyond, serving numerous Chinese universities. As a Yale graduate and a historian by training, Dr. Chapman fittingly authored The Yale-China Association: A Centennial History, published in 2001. This book let the world know the honorable tradition of Yale graduates generously advancing higher education in China, and promoting cultural exchange, building friendship, mutual understanding and mutual trust at the same time.
After these 14 years of being the top administrator, Dr. Chapman could not resist the call to be a frontline educator overseas once again. She returned to Hong Kong to serve as the Associate Master and Dean of General Education of the newly founded Morningside College at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2008–2011.
With such rich experience of being a foot soldier and a top administrator, it is no surprise that in 2011 Dr. Chapman was chosen as the President of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, spreading her experience, knowledge, and care to 15 countries and regions of Asia. HKBU and the United Board have been long-time partners in collaborations to strengthen higher education. The latest example came when our University received a generous donation pledge from the United Board. The whole donation will be used to support various programmes for advancing the shared mission of the United Board and HKBU of strengthening whole-person education.
In recognition of her strenuous efforts in fostering exchanges between China and the US, her outstanding leadership in promoting whole-person education among higher education institutions, and her life-long devotion to be a servant leader in advancing higher education in China and Asia, the University bestows upon Dr. Nancy E. Chapman the Honorary University Fellowship.