Office of the President

Transforming Lives

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

TAIPEI — I often say that the most important task of the University of Washington is to transform lives—that the UW should have such an impact on our students, our colleagues, and our patients that their lives are changed in profoundly important ways. It was, therefore, with great pleasure that I listened to the story of UW alumnus William Cheng-Wang Huang. I first met Mr. Huang in Tokyo more than a year ago. He is a passionate Husky of tremendous accomplishment in Taiwan and throughout Asia. It was great fun to see him again because of his charming sense of humor and self-deprecating modesty, despite his extraordinary success. What I didn’t know about him was his UW story.Â

In the early 1950s, Mr. Huang determined that he should get a graduate degree. With very few resources, he left by boat, traveling two weeks from Japan, where he was at the time, to San Francisco, and then on to Seattle by train. He quickly found a job as a “house boy,” working for a local family. Like so many UW students then and now, he made ends meet, adding odd jobs, including as a gardener, while improving his English and studying for a master’s degree in economics. Mr. Huang’s memories are filled with the families and friends that helped him, the faculty who taught and encouraged him, and the affection for a university that changed his life.

And the UW experience did indeed change his life. Mr. Huang returned home and entered the business world. Today, he is head of the largest holding and venture capital firm in Taiwan, with interests in businesses as varied as automobile tires to yogurt. He is revered by his colleagues and by community leaders. Best of all, Mr. Huang is such a proud Husky that when it was time for his daughter to go to graduate school, she happily followed his trail to the UW (though she passed on the two-week boat ride).