Dedicated educator gave disabled pride

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 March, 2004, 12:00am

Marion Fang Sum-suk


When the Hong Kong Red Cross opened the John F. Kennedy Centre for physically disabled children in 1967, the trustees looked for someone with unusual attributes to head the new institution.

They settled on Marion Fang Sum-suk. They could hardly have made a better choice. A former high school teacher and mother-of-two who loved all children, Fang took to the demanding work with glee.

In an era when public recognition and respect for the handicapped was notably lacking, she not only taught and helped the young people in her care but also did much to educate the public.

Fang died at her home in Stanley last Sunday, aged 80. She had been ill for some time. She retired in 1991 and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Hong Kong.

A teacher at St Paul's Convent for a decade, Fang entered a fresh field when she opted to switch to heading an institution dealing with the handicapped.

To face the challenge, she went to London University, where she gained a diploma in education for the physically disabled. She was awarded the OBE in 1988 and 11 years later the Silver Bauhinia Star.

In a 1991 interview, she said helping physically disabled children was the driving challenge in her life.

'Rather than following a school syllabus and testing students on what they have learned, you suddenly become involved in all aspects of their lives,' she said. 'They have very special needs, not only physical, which are the most obvious, but emotional and social.

'They have to be able to stand up proudly in a competitive society, to face their difficulties with courage and honour.'

A Mass will be held at St Paul's Convent, Causeway Bay, at 8.30am today.

Fang is survived by two children and many relatives. One of them is former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, who is a niece.