Remembering Sir S.Y. Chung
The University regrets to report the death of one of our most distinguished alumni, The Hon Sir Sze-yuen Chung GBE, GBM, PhD, HonFIMechE, FREng, JP, who died on 14 November at the age of 101.
Sir S.Y., as he chose to be known, was an alumnus (PhD Mechanical Engineering 1951), an honorary graduate (Hon LLD 1985), as well as a major benefactor of the University.
Sir S.Y. arrived in Sheffield in 1948 from his home in Hong Kong after a 28-day journey at sea to take up a British Council scholarship. During his studies he lived in the South-West of the city until the completion of his PhD in 1951. In his time at Sheffield he was a prolific researcher, published ten research papers, one of which was awarded the prestigious Whitworth prize of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Following his studies, Sir S.Y. returned to Hong Kong as he had a strong belief in “giving back” to the place of his birth. He worked as a mechanical engineer, establishing his own firm - Chung Sze Yuen Engineering – as well as becoming a leading member of the business community there.
Later, Sir S.Y. moved into politics and became known as the “Godfather of Hong Kong politics”. He was a senior member of Hong Kong’s Executive and Legislative Councils during Hong Kong’s British rule in the 1970s and 1980s, and was knighted in 1978 for this service.
During this time Sir S.Y. also played a key role in determining the future of Hong Kong with the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration to return Hong Kong to Chinese control, and championing the importance of the people of Hong Kong citizens after transition. Although he retired in 1988 he remained active in politics, helping to oversee the transition as Beijing's Hong Kong Affairs Adviser and a member of the Special Administrative Region's (SAR) preparatory committee. He took a great personal interest in the expansion of higher education in Hong Kong.
After the 1997 handover Sir S.Y. was appointed as the convenor of the Executive Council of the SAR, a position he held for 2 years before retiring from the political scene. He received the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the highest award that Hong Kong can bestow, recognising his lifelong contribution to the wellbeing of its people.
Sir S.Y. has been a firm friend of the University throughout his life. As an alumnus he has supported his University in many ways over the years. His endowed scholarship fund has helped outstanding students from Hong Kong come to the UK to study for a postgraduate degree at Sheffield. Some of Sir S.Y.'s generous donations have also been used to provide scholarships for women, supporting the University’s commitment to increase, support and recognise the number of women in engineering.
The University’s postgraduate engineering building was in part made possible thanks to a 1 million US dollar donation from Sir S.Y., including the fitting out of the central atrium space which was named in his honour. In recognition of this gift Sir S.Y. was also admitted to the University’s Roll of Benefactors in January 2012.
Sir S.Y.’s support for the University has also spread beyond engineering, with his donations helping to establish a library and study space in the School of East Asian studies.
Most recently, Sir S.Y.'s generous donations to the Faculty of Engineering have helped establish the prestigious Sir S.Y. Chung Centenary Fellowships in the Faculty. These Fellowships will allow distinguished international academics to visit and work at the University on 6 month fellowships, enhancing our research and teaching capabilities.
Miles Stevenson, Director of Advancement at the University of Sheffield, first met Sir S.Y. in 2002 and met and corresponded with him over the last sixteen years:
“Sir S.Y. was a truly remarkable man. He was widely respected and admired - and just to spend time in his company made you feel good about life. He was a true son of Hong Kong – and over his long life served its community with distinction. His wisdom was sought by everyone – and he encouraged everyone to give back to create the strong, prosperous and vibrant community that Hong Kong is today. He held a great affection for the University of Sheffield and the people of the city. His passing will be widely mourned by all of those who had the good fortune to know him. He will forever be remembered as one of our finest alumni.”