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A family tradition of supporting students

A family tradition of supporting students

[the Wong family]
Photo by Garrett Elliott

Seen here, seated, are John Wong, Meds’59, and his daughter Diana. Standing behind them are John’s daughter Angela and son John Jr. Not in the photo: John’s daughter Gloria. The Wong family dedicated a bench on campus in John’s honour and a tree in memory of his wife, Lily.

As John Wong, Meds ’59, enjoys an active, travel-filled retirement from his California home, he has ample opportunity to reflect on all he has to be grateful for.

In the 56 years since he graduated, John has ­expressed his gratitude in the form of generous donations to his alma mater. And now that he is in his ninth decade, he wants to make sure his children follow in his footsteps and keep his legacy alive – not just the philanthropy, but also the gratitude that inspired it.

John’s own footsteps trace back to Hong Kong. The son of a dentist, John was 16 when he crossed the ocean and settled in Canada. Nine years later, he earned his medical degree and opened his ­psychiatry practice.

And while his career has been good to him, much of his gratitude revolves around his Queen’s experience. “I am grateful to Canada and to Queen’s,” he says. “I wouldn’t be who I am without my Queen’s education.”

He remains in close contact with many of his classmates, attending official reunions on campus as well as frequent informal reunions, including one he hosted in 2011 that included a 10-day cruise around the Baja Peninsula.

In 2007, John decided to express his gratitude for his education – and his journey – by establishing the Wong International Bursary, which allows students in financial need to study in China. “I wanted to support students from Queen’s who wish to learn more about China,” he explains.

One recipient, Laura Hamilton, Artsci’15, used the bursary to spend five months in Shanghai, ­improving her command of the Mandarin language and soaking up the city’s culture.

John created the bursary in memory of his ­parents, Min and Lau Wong, and he hopes his own children will honour this memory in a ­similar way.

Although none of his four children attended Queen’s, John has instilled the tricolour spirit in each of them. Three of them joined him here for the first time last fall, touring his old haunts and getting a first-hand look at the campus they had heard so much about. The occasion was his 55th reunion, and a double dedication ceremony – a bench in front of the Old Medical Building to celebrate his 80th birthday, and a nearby native red maple tree planted in memory of his wife, Lily, who died in 2013.

His four children have contributed to the international bursary. And John has an even deeper commitment in mind. “What I want is for my children to continue giving when I’m gone,” he says.

Last fall, his son and namesake, John Jr., joined him as the official family contact for the international bursary. “My father understands the importance of honouring parents and expressing gratitude for everything they do,” says John Jr. “He set up the bursary to honour my grandparents. Now there’s a way for my siblings and me to express gratitude to our parents.” 

[Queen's Alumni Review 2015 Issue 4 cover]