CHAIRMAN’S REPORT – 2015-16 – 27 JUNE 2016
The 2016 Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) was held on 23 June 2016 when I delivered the Annual Report of Convocation before an election took place to fill the eight vacancies. The election results have since been uploaded on the website and I congratulate the eight successful distinguished alumni who have joined or re-joined others to serve as members of the Standing Committee to work for the good of the University and to bring the University closer to the community of Hong Kong. The following is my Report.
“The past twelve months will go down in the annals of the Convocation as a momentous year, a year that could shape the future of this statutory body established in 1958 to bring the University and the community of Hong Kong closer together. It is momentous because, while for as long as one can remember, we have not convened an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) requisitioned by members under the Convocation Constitution, during the year, we held not only one, but two EGMs. Not only that, we held the first one outside campus, with a record attendance of over 3,400 members, and attracting such media interest that at least one local TV station had seen it fit to inform its audience during prime time what Convocation is and what its powers are. That must have helped to enhance public awareness of the Convocation, but one can never be sure to what extent that would help to bring the University and the community of Hong Kong closer together. For the record, the two EGMs were held on 1 September 2015 and 29 November 2015 respectively.
At the risk of being repetitive, let me quickly say that the law provides for a Standing Committee (SC) to be formed comprising 24 members elected by the membership to be the executive arm of the Convocation, the membership of which now stand at over 162,000 and still counting. As head of this body, I am keenly aware of the responsibilities devolving on me and the difficulties involved in having effective communication with the members on the one hand and to represent them adequately on the other. Shortly after I assumed office as Chairman therefore, I started a “Chairman’s Column” on the Convocation website in an attempt to bridge the communication gap. So far, I have had ten issues uploaded on the website, and this could be the eleventh issue. Indeed, I was quietly happy when I heard during meetings with alumni representatives overseas that they had read some of these issues. These meetings were organized by staff of the Development and Alumni Affairs Office (DAAO) to tie in with the personal trips to cities overseas, including Vancouver, New York and Chicago on my part, and to New Zealand on the part of our Deputy Chairman, Dr. Patrick Poon. Invariably, our alumni overseas are keen to bear the banner of the alma mater and to uphold its honour, reputation and heritage wherever they are.
Networking HKU graduates is indeed a key function of Convocation, the object of which would bring in much needed and valued views, new ideas and donations to the University. Convocation members have traditionally participated in various capacities on University affairs. Our 24 SC members in particular have continued to be active: 15 of our members serve on the Court, two on the Council, and a few others on various advisory boards and committees, including but not restricted to the HKU Foundation, Finance Committee, Investment Committee and Career Advisory Board. I was a speaker at the Inauguration Ceremony held in August 2015 during which I joined the University to welcome the intake of new students who would on graduation become members of the Convocation. Talking of our new students, I am proud that the best students are trying hard to get into HKU and that we are getting them.
Still on the SC, we have divided the work between six Sub-Committees, namely University Affairs, House, Finance, Administration, Member Relations and Communications. In addition, the SC has set up during the year various task forces and working parties to take on topical projects and issues, for example, on follow up action on the EGMs, on the Convocation Forum held in May on “Asia’s Global University – Our vision for 2016 – 2025”, on the logistics for the current Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) which is the de facto AGM of Convocation, and most recently, on how best to assist in the work of the Review Panel on University Governance. All our SC members have labored long and hard in the best interest of the University and have made significant achievements.
With your indulgence, let me dwell on a bit on the Convocation Forum, which has contributed to making the last year a momentous year. Now, in December 2015, the President and Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson outlined to the Court a strategic plan to position the University in the next decade as Asia’s Global University. The Court approved his plan. At the Forum and unprecedentedly, he was accompanied by the full complement of his Senior Management Team (SMT) in the discussions with Convocation members. The lineup not only signifies the importance the University attaches to Convocation, but is also indicative of the commitment and determination of the President and his Team to achieve their objective. It was a successful event and here, I would like to thank the two principal alumni bodies for being co-organizers, namely the Hong Kong University Alumni Association and the Hong Kong University Graduates Association.
I hope I have illustrated in my brief report that the Convocation has had a phenomenal year and has somehow helped to bring the University and the community of Hong Kong somewhat closer together. It has not been an easy year; it has been eventful; and I deem it my privilege to have had the opportunity of being its head at such a time. Taking the opportunity, I would like to thank all members of Convocation for the part they each have played during the year. Whether you are in this room or without, whether you have done so quietly or loudly, in silence or with fanfare, in accolades or with criticisms, each and every one of you are additions to the history of the University and of Hong Kong, and together your contributions would go into the annals and help foster a stronger HKU and Hong Kong.
I would like to thank the hard working, cheerful and loyal staff of the University in general and of the DAAO in particular, without whose support, the SC would be unable to accomplish the little they have. Of course, I thank all my colleagues on the SC, this diehard two dozens have weathered together through thick and thin and for better or worse, for which I am eternally grateful. A few of them have decided not to seek another term and we are making arrangements to thank them separately later. Lastly and certainly not the least, I would like to thank Professor Peter Mathieson and his Team for the leadership and support they have rendered the University in general and the Convocation in particular over the last year, which as I have said, has been rather eventful and sometimes expensive. I look forward to a continuing and positive engagement between Convocation and his Team to help achieve the vision of the University and to bring it to greater heights. Let me end with something that I think the President said at the May Forum: in years to come when nobody would remember who has done what and to whom, the University would still be standing tall as an institution to be reckoned with, going from strength to strength and be a top university in the world. On this optimistic note, let me thank all of you here once more and wish everyone good health and happiness. Thank you.”
So here we are at the beginning of a new Convocation Year. Some of you would have followed the work of the Review Panel on University Governance the Chairman and a Member of which were in Hong Kong last week to meet various stakeholders, including a session with Convocation members and another with members of the Standing Committee. There is a lot of work ahead. We look forward to your continuing support; and I hope to talk to you again soon.