In Memory of President Han-Min Hsia 1932-2021
Article by NCKU Office of Strategic Planning.
“I am satisfied to come this far from an orphanage to the president office of a university. It fears me nothing to lose this post for my beliefs and principles. That way, I shall be available to pursue a degree in Management at Harvard Business School!"‒Han-Min Hsia
Former President of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), Han-Min Hsia, who laid the foundation of NCKU’s development with enormous effort and dedication, breathed his last at the age of 90, at 4am on June 18th 2021. We, NCKU students, faculty, alumni, offer our sincere condolences and are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved President.
The Pathway of Growth
President Hsia lost his father at an early age, and thus was fostered out and lived for years in an orphanage. In 1949, he moved to Taiwan with his mother, and very soon completed his BS from the Naval Academy in 1954, MS in Mechanical Engineering from National Cheng Kung University in 1962, and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Oklahoma State University in 1965. In 1967, President Hsia gave up his faculty position and the generous life in the States, and decided to return to NCKU to serve as a Visiting Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In 1968, he then took up the Head of the Department until 1971, when he headed back to the States as a Visiting Professor upon invitation. After his return, he was asked to serve as the Principal of Provincial Kaohsiung Institute of Technology from 1972 to 1977. Due to his outstanding leadership running the Institute, he was very quickly assigned to serve as the Head of the Department of Technological and Vocational Education at the Ministry of Education from 1977 to 1979. Later on, he was promoted to the Administrative Deputy Minister, in charge of the facilitation of technology education. In 1980, following the passing of the contemporary NCKU President, Wei-Nung Wang, President Hsia succeeded as the President of NCKU in August.
The Foundation of NCKU’s Leap
Right after President Hsia’s succession in the president office at NCKU, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to long-term institutional development. Within the span of his 8 years in service from 1980 to 1988, he transformed the engineering-oriented institution to a completely comprehensive university. His achievements included the expansion of campus, the establishment of 14 new departments, such as Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Department of Biology, Department of Post-Baccalaureate Medicine, just to name a few, and the inception of the Medical Center.
The establishment of the Department of Medicine and the affiliated Medical Center were a part of the 14 Major National Constructions Project back at the time, with NCKU’s Medical Center being the very first westernized hospital to follow the American medical model. President Hsia even extended his cordial invitation to Prof. Kun-Yan Huang and asked for his assistance in the preparation and arrangement of the inauguration. Then in 1988, the Medical Center, located on the Cheng-Hsing Campus nowadays, was officially open.
The establishment of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1983 was also a significant accomplishment by President Hsia. He reached out to the prominent expert in the field of aeronautics and astronautics, Prof. Chi-Chang Chao, to return to Taiwan and contribute to the national development in the field of aeronautical and astronautical sciences from Stanford University. The construction of the department building began in 1984 on the Tzu-Chiang Campus; the aerospace research center on the Guiren Campus was founded in 1987. The two above-mentioned projects have been deemed the critical milestones for NCKU to progress in transformation at a later time.
“Pragmatic, dedicated attitude, the willingness to work around the clock and with the great effort of work integration” had always been the principle which President Hsia adhered to during his presidency. With his strong integration capability, President Hsia took the lead to establish the “National Cheng Kung University Alumni Association Center" and further expanded the alumni associations around the world. He believed that the Alumni Association Center could not just develop the connection and relationship between the alumni and NCKU, reduce the alienation but further become an effective platform for thousands of alumni to assist the institution’s development. Through establishing a mechanism to connect the institution and the alumni, it dedicates a specific personnel as a core of the unit to publish publications regularly, introduce the institution’s updates and to share messages and information of alumni, in order to maintain the closed interaction between NCKU and its alumni. Nowadays, NCKU has over 32 Alumni Association Centers globally and they are acting as a core factor in creating the sense of collaboration between all the people of NCKU.
In the 1980s, the trend of democratization was growing within the university along with the change in the global turbulent environment, and gradually, influencing the thinking of students. Since President Hsia’s commencement as a president, he remained his mission on “supporting the students with care and not just simply delivering an instruction to resolve an issue.” During his times as a president, regular lunch meetings were organized with students in order to maintain the transparency and efficacy of communication. While with this approach in place, however, he still got to confront any protests raised by student associations. After the incident, he adopted the students’ suggestions on behalf of the institution, and organized the “First Students’ Forum” at the front plaza of the student activity center dated March 16th 1988.
The Remarkable Journey Above and Beyond
Following the opening of the NCKU Medical Center on June 12th 1988, President Hsia stepped down from the office after 8-year leadership. He was then, from 1988 to 1993, appointed to serve as the Chairperson of the National Science Council at the Ministry of Science and Technology, to drive the collaboration between academia and industry from a higher level, standing at the helm of national research development. From 1993 to 1996, he held multiple positions, as the Minister without Portfolio, the Convener of the Board of Science and Technology, the Convener of the Planning and Execution Group of Nangang Trade and Economic Park at the Executive Yuan. During this tenure, he propelled the development of Hsinchu Science Park and contributed to technology diplomacy. Furthermore, from 1996 to 2000, he served as the National Policy Advisor to the President.
After President Hsia’s retirement from the public sector, he did not neglect his vision and ambition, and thus started to raise funds and founded the National Information Infrastructure Enterprise Promotion Association. He served as the Chairman of the Board voluntarily without being paid for 6 years, and kept pushing national development forwards with the power of the private sector. In 2003, President Hsia established the God Care About Earth (GCAE) and began to spread the gospel and encourage and sponsor the abandoned and the poor to learn. It was a deed in resonation with his disquieting past as well as in appreciation of the nurturing he received in life afterwards. We now reflect respectfully on President Hsia’s life of integrity and altruism – a man who was born in the same year of NCKU’s inception, then was cultivated at NCKU, and eventually served and devoted himself at NCKU to its future sustainability and prosperity. At the point of NCKU’s 90th anniversary, President Hsia came to the end of his fulfilling life journey. His spirits of earnestness and truthfulness will always remain in our hearts and be recorded in NCKU’s history for good.