School classmates of Nobel prize winner gather to sing his praises
Some 50 years after they graduated, classmates of Nobel physics laureate Charles Kao Kuen assembled yesterday to throw a celebration bash for 'the father of fibre optics' at their school, St Joseph's College, as it marks its 135th anniversary.
Kao, wearing a school tie, was cheerful when, flanked by his wife and the school's supervisor, he was led into a hall for the opening ceremony of the 135th anniversary celebrations. Waving, he said: 'There are so many people.'
Kao, who attended the school for four years and graduated in 1952 after moving to the city from Shanghai, is in Hong Kong for a series of celebrations to mark his 2009 Nobel prize.
Kao listened as classmates honoured his contribution to the world and his Nobel triumph. Classmate Lau Siu-wai said: 'If it were not for Kao, the IT field would not have a new horizon. We all need to thank him. Give him a clap.'
Kao's classmates composed 10 poems to celebrate his prize and contribution to the world.
One reads: 'A prize belated in recognition of one who transforms communication. A well-deserved Nobel laureate, success expected by many a classmate.'
Another classmate, Peter Woo, said: 'The [optical fibre] technology fundamentally narrowed national boundaries, linking people by making them just a click away from each other. In that sense, he deserves the Nobel more than Barack Obama.'
His classmates described Kao as an exemplary student, humble, quiet and hardworking.
The school has published a supplement detailing Kao's life and has featured him on its registration form. It will also name a building after him.
Yesterday Kao visited a hall named after him before going to a physics laboratory where his invention, optical fibre, was on display.
'I am very happy to see Kao today. He is my role model,' Form Four pupil Ling Tin-yu said. 'He's like a god to me. I am proud of him.'
Those attending yesterday's ceremony included Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po, executive councillor Dr Leong Che-hung and lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung.
Kao's health was a focus for many. Classmates said Kao, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, appeared to be in good health, although he was a little tired after the celebration, which lasted for an hour.
The Chinese University and Kao's wife plan to set up a fund named after him to support research into the disease.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung told yesterday's gathering the government had set aside more than HK$40 million for homes for the elderly and day care centres to help patients with Alzheimer's.