Doctor of Business Administration, honoris causa (2018)
Dr Philip Nan-lok Chen has had a long and distinguished career in business management and has made a significant contribution to the management field in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and worldwide. After graduating from The University of Hong Kong in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History, Dr Chen joined Cathay Pacific Airways of the Swire Group and was assigned to overseas posts including Osaka, Beijing and Singapore. In 1984 he received an MBA degree from The University of Hong Kong, and in 1989 was appointed by Swire Pacific as the Chief Representative and General Manager of John Swire & Sons (China) Limited. He then went on to become the Regional General Manager Southeast Asia of Cathay Pacific Airways in 1992 and was seconded to Hong Kong Dragon Airlines, assuming the post of Chief Executive in 1994.
Transferring his knowledge to the theme park industry, Dr Chen was appointed the Chairman of Ocean Park Hong Kong where he served between 2000 and 2003, engineering a major turnaround in its fortunes. He was subsequently appointed to the Board of Hongkong International Theme Parks Limited (Hong Kong Disneyland) where he was a Non-Executive Director for a two-year period. Dr Chen has also been serving on the Board of Stewards of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, since 2006, on a voluntary basis, striving for the betterment of our society through overseeing the strategy and direction of the Club. With his diverse experience and notable accomplishments across the services sector, he was appointed the Chairman of John Swire & Sons (China) Limited in 2007. In 2010, Dr Chen joined the Hang Lung Group and Hang Lung Properties as Chief Executive Officer. After having retired from the position of the Chief Executive Officer in July 2018, he was immediately appointed as Adviser to Chairman and a Non-Executive Director of Hang Lung Properties.
Beyond his contributions to local, regional and global business, Dr Chen has held a long list of public appointments, and has been a staunch supporter of Hong Kong’s tertiary education sector, particularly the University Grants Committee (UGC) as an ex officio member from 2004 to 2012 and as the Chairman of its Quality Assurance Council (QAC) from 2008 to 2012. Dr Chen was keen to promote and assure the quality of local institutions’ educational provision. During his service as the Chairman of QAC, Dr. Chen instigated the first round of quality audits of the eight UGC-funded universities. Hong Kong Baptist University was one of the universities that had undergone its first QAC quality audit in 2009. Under his leadership, the quality of higher education in Hong Kong has been further strengthened to an internationally competitive level and brought into line with international best practices. For his dedicated services to Hong Kong and beyond, Dr Chen was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 2000, and awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star in 2002 and the Gold Bauhinia Star in 2012 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to society.
Reflecting on his career and life experiences, Dr Chen offers our graduates two pieces of advice to inspire their future careers. “You must be passionate about what you do, and always focus on continuous improvement. Do not blindly accept anything for what it appears to be; do not naively believe what others say you should believe; do not simply sing the tune that others urge you to sing. Constantly question what you see, learn, read and hear. Strive to find new ways and fresh perspectives to look at everything, and nurture your creative thinking. But also make sure that your creative ideas are run through a reality check. Great accomplishments require creativity and hard work. As Thomas Edison once said, ‘Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.’ ”
His second piece of advice relates to moral principles. “The highest priority in life is to uphold integrity and honesty. Whatever you do, be sure that you can sleep peacefully at night! Have a consistency to your character. Whether it is your life at work or your life outside of work, you must be you, all of the time. Integrity is not something that is turned on when people are watching, and turned off when no one is watching. Integrity should be a permanent, unshakeable cornerstone of who you are.”
Dr Philip Nan-lok Chen is a distinguished business executive and a prominent community leader with a natural drive for excellence. His dedication to his profession, his wide ranging contribution to Hong Kong society and beyond, and his unwavering support for the tertiary education sector over the years are exemplary. He embodies the values of creativity, global thinking, and integrity. These are values that are central to the mission and vision of Hong Kong Baptist University.