Concordia champion in Hong Kong
In the half century since he graduated from Sir George Williams University, one of Concordia’s founding institutions, William Yip, BA 67, LLD 98, has witnessed tectonic changes in the way the university goes about welcoming and educating foreign students. Now, following a successful decades-long career as a real estate developer based in his native Hong Kong, it’s his goal to make sure those changes continue their positive momentum.
When Yip arrived in Montreal in the early 1960s, he knew very little about the institution he would call home for the next several years. “In those old days, we didn’t have systems like the internet,” he says. “We just had word of mouth from some senior people who went to the school or came from Hong Kong.”
Faced with a lack of opportunity back home, Yip and thousands of other young, ambitious Hong Kong residents hoping to carve a future for themselves went abroad for their studies. All he knew about Sir George Williams was its reputation as a good business school.
Navigating life at a new school, in a new city and in a country half a world away from home was a challenge for bewildered foreign students. “There were very few of us at the time. I believe that we had about 200 students at Sir George from Hong Kong in my time,” he says. “They had many other students from other countries, including local students. They were very busy. We had to overcome many difficulties.”
Yip graduated in 1967 and soon re- turned home to Hong Kong. Yet he had forged deep links with the community in Montreal, including as a founding mem- ber of the Corporation of the Montreal Chinese Hospital, which continues to serve the local Chinese community today.
He started up the real estate devel- opment company Canada Land Ltd. in 1972. While building it into a power- house in the nearby mainland Chinese city of Guangzhou, he found time to support and raise Canada’s profile as an academic destination for young Hongkongers.
Yip — who was awarded an honorary degree by Concordia in 1998 — has been chairman of the board of governors of the Canadian University Association (Hong Kong) since 1984, having served the six previous years as its president. In 1998-2000, Yip served as the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, the largest chamber outside Canada.
He became the founding president of the Concordia University Hong Kong Foundation in 1999. “Since then, we have provided 110 scholarships to kids from mainland China and Hong Kong to study at Concordia, in all faculties, in- cluding in master’s programs,” he says. “And we’ll continue to provide scholar- ships to needy students.”
Now Yip is closely involved with the newly launched Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen. Now, as the Asia division’s honorary vice-chair. His plans include raising the university’s international profile among an already crowded field of Canadian and other Western universities hoping to attract mainland Chinese and Hong Kong students. He’s confident Concordia’s strengths will make it stand out. “As I see the John Molson School of Business giving a very strong background to Canadian as well as international students, many of our kids from mainland China or Hong Kong want to get into the school to prepare for their careers,” Yip says.
—Patrick Lejtenyi, GrDip 99