The late co-founder of the city's first and only private university once drove to the post office as a typhoon approached to personally mail admission letters so that anxious students would not need to wait another day.
That anecdote, about Dr Chung Chi-yung, chancellor of Shue Yan University until her death on March 2, was one of the many recollections shared by some of the 300 friends, colleagues and students who attended her service at the Hong Kong Funeral home yesterday. All of them stood for her husband of 69 years, Dr Henry Hu Hung-lick.
The university's Chinese-language scholar Hung Siu-ping read a 170-word funeral oration written in classical Chinese which paid tribute to her contribution to tertiary education.
Chung's younger son, Hu Fai-chung, also the university's vice-president, said his mother devoted her life to education when she arrived in Hong Kong in 1955, after 10 years studying in Europe. The decision was prompted by a dire lack of education in traditional Chinese values and culture. "Hong Kong was a desert devoid of culture and the people had long forgotten their roots and instead took pride in being British," Hu quoted her as saying.
At a time when 98 per cent of students were denied entrance to university, Chung and her husband used their own money to establish what was then Shue Yan College to give more students access to tertiary education.
A former sociology lecturer at the university, Chee Wong, said Chung would herself find internships and jobs for her students.
Wong also witnessed Chung's unwillingness to compromise her beliefs when she insisted on providing a four-year programme rather than three, even when that meant losing out on government subsidies.
"This is the spirit which Shue Yan University embodies … and this immense spirit in her will remain in our hearts forever."