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Far From Toi Shan

Bonnie Huang is far from home, but it is never far from her mind. She misses her family, of course, but it is more than that. Huang has come to the University of Alberta all the way from the province of Guangdong in the People's Republic of China in order to return one day to her hometown and contribute to its development.

Huang has spent a year polishing her English and will begin a degree program in the Faculty of Business this fall. She has been given the opportunity to study at the U of A through the generosity of an alumnus who values his ties to the University and to his family's ancestral home.

Charles Chan, '79 BSc(Eng) recently endowed a $2 million scholarship to help bring excellent students from Toi Shan — the town in southern China to which his family traces its roots — to the University of Alberta for studies that will enable them to contribute to the town's development when they return.

Huang, the first recipient of the scholarship, had a chance to meet Chan just before she left for Edmonton, and she recalls his advice. "He said to study hard, learn as much as I could, and come back and help Toi Shan."

Twenty-three years earlier, the Hong-Kong-born Chan had himself set out for Edmonton, determined to study hard. After improving his English at Alberta College, he enrolled in the U of A Faculty of Engineering, from which he graduated in 1979.

After graduation he returned to Hong Kong to work with his father in the construction business. He progressed quickly and a dozen years later became chairman and CEO of Paul Y-ITC Construction Holdings, a conglomerate of international construction and investment companies.

In 1995, Chan acquired controlling interest in the Oxford Group, a major Canadian development company whose high-profile properties include Edmonton Centre, the Dome Oil building in Calgary, and the National Bank building in Toronto. Later that same year, he took over the Hanny Magnetic Corporation, which manufactures and markets the Memorex brand of audio and video tapes and Dysan computer diskettes worldwide.

Throughout his career, Chan has been mindful of his family's heritage, and he has contributed significantly to the infrastucture of Toi Shan, helping with the construction of roads and bridges, schools, a hospital, and homes for children in need of care. In addition to funding the scholarship that has brought Huang to Alberta to complete her degree, Chan has plans for another project which will combine his interests in his ancestral home and in the U of A: he has been working closely with President Rod Fraser and other U of A officials on a possible joint venture to develop a private commercial college in the province of Guangdong.

Published Autumn 1996.

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