Lasting Legacy: The Dr. Sik Hung Kwan Physics Endowed Scholarship
Raymond Kwan ’92 had it in his heart to honor his father’s legacy as a professor of physics. Over the last year, Kwan has worked with UST to establish a scholarship in his father’s name: The Dr. Sik Hung Kwan Physics Endowed Scholarship. Ray generously contributed $100,000 to support scholarships for Houston-area students pursuing undergraduate degrees in physics.
Born into a butcher’s family in Hong Kong, Ray’s father, Sik Hung Kwan, received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Hong Kong in 1958. After the war, his father took a chance, learned German, and boarded a ship for the three-week journey to continue his studies at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany. He later transferred to the University of London, where he received his Ph.D in Physics in 1965. When he graduated, he was among the few Chinese Ph.Ds in science, immediately receiving a job offer teaching physics in Hong Kong. He spent his career teaching during the economic boom in Hong Kong.
Sik Hung Kwan’s storied career
For more than 20 years, Dr. Kwan taught at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The classes he taught in applied physics and material science to solve scientific or engineering problems contributed to the successful careers of countless graduates and shaped many of Hong Kong’s growing industries. With an understanding of what the booming sectors in Hong Kong needed, the elder Kwan became the principal lecturer. He also served as a consultant to the Hong Kong Observatory. During those years, Dr. Kwan traveled and exposed his son, Ray, and daughter, Yuen Jong, to the Western World, Europe, and other Asian countries, making a lasting impression on Ray.
Ray Kwan Travels to Houston, Enrolls at UST
Dr. Kwan’s only son, Ray, was born in the United States but grew up in Hong Kong. After 11th grade, he returned to the states and Houston to study biology at the University of St. Thomas. Ray fondly remembers his years at UST, especially Biology Professors Ann Pinkerton and Larry Nordyke and Chemistry Professors Dr. Gerry Gries and Dr. William Tinnerman.
After graduation, he parlayed his biology degree into a career in the healthcare industry doing research at Baylor College of Medicine, Brown University, UT-Houston and UCLA. Ray earned an M.S. in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Returning to Hong Kong
Ray and his wife moved to Hong Kong in 2011 but became increasingly dissatisfied after China took over and Hong Kong lost its autonomy from China in 2019. Ray’s philosophy on the political situation was very different from his peers, who quietly accepted the communist changes. Ray then realized that his liberal arts education and formation at UST had uniquely shaped him. By studying philosophy and theology, his mind opened like a flower and was transformed: giving him a broader view than his Hong Kong peers. Ray and his wife were staunchly pro-democracy.
“I felt grateful I am me and not like my peers,” Ray said. “My four years at UST made me think about my situation in Hong Kong. I am very grateful to have come here to college.”
In 2021, following his father’s death the previous year, Ray and his wife returned to America to be close to his mother.
Preparing the Next Generation of Physicists in Houston
During that three-week summer visit to Houston in 2021, the family visited St. Thomas. Ray was astonished to learn there were currently more than 100 students in the degree program studying all branches of engineering and physics. There were more pre-med and biology students and only a handful of chemistry and physics graduates when he attended UST.
He made a decision. He would endow a scholarship at his alma mater in his father’s name. It was clear that St. Thomas was the place to honor his father’s legacy. Ray strongly desired to help educate the Houston community, which meant scholarships for local kids from Houston high schools.
Recently, the Kwan family traveled back to Houston to experience the newly renovated engineering/physics building funded by a Department of Education Title V grant. They met students, professors, and alumni at the reception and viewed the state-of-the-art facilities.
For Ray and his family, the circle was complete.
His father’s love for physics education will continue to influence future generations of physicists at a place Ray cherished. At UST, students earn an excellent liberal arts education taught by great professors. Ray is confident that his investment in these students’ education will prepare them for promising careers and life.