Duke Kunshan University Held its First Thanks-Giving Dinner & Scholarship Celebration

November 21, 2018

On November 8, 2018, Duke Kunshan University held its first Thanks-Giving Dinner & Scholarship Celebration on campus, together with the unveiling ceremony of the donor recognition wall. The event was jointly organized by the Duke Kunshan Education Development Foundation and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.  Nearly 100 scholarship recipients, along with donors, and Duke Kunshan faculty and staff gathered to celebrate donors for their generous support, express gratitude, and discuss the future of the University.

Unveiling Ceremony of the Donor Recognition Wall

In the presence of Chancellor Feng Youmei, Executive Vice Chancellor Denis Simon, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Gao Haiyan, and Wendy Kuran, Associate Vice President for Development at Duke University, donors of scholarship funds and their representatives jointly unveiled the donor recognition wall, which recognizes major donors whose generosity has supported innovation and excellence at Duke Kunshan since its foundation. Donors present at the ceremony have funded many scholarships and programs, including the Blair Sheppard Global Leadership Scholarship, the Bond Scholarship, the Shu Ren Scholarship, the Guo Tingting Scholarship, the Fubon Scholarship, the Zhi Yuan Scholarship, the Green Future Fund, the JF Progressive Scholarship and the Campus Arts and Culture program.

In her remarks, Chancellor Feng expressed deep gratitude to all donors for their generous support.  Since Duke Kunshan’s founding in 2013, more than 50 major individual and corporate donors have contributed to its scholarship programs, which have provided financial support to more than 450 undergraduate and graduate students, including over 60 undergraduates in the inaugural class. Chancellor Feng commented that the donors’ support has fueled Duke Kunshan's continuous innovation. As Nietzsche famously says, gratitude is the health of the soul. The donor recognition wall was set up to recognize the donors whose contributions have made tremendous impacts at moments of need, and to create a “thanks-giving culture” at Duke Kunshan, encouraging students to pursue knowledge with a benevolent heart.

Donors jointly unveiled the donor recognition wall

Thanks-Giving Dinner & Scholarship Celebration

Feng Cheng, Secretary General of the Duke Kunshan Education Development Foundation and Director of Development and Alumni Relations, served as the master of ceremonies. She extended warm welcomes to all the donors, students, and faculty, and deep appreciation to all who have supported the University.

Feng Cheng
Secretary General of the Duke Kunshan Education Development Foundation

In her opening speech, Chancellor Feng shared her hopes for the University as a pioneering effort in Chinese higher education. The University offers a liberal arts education, a multi-cultural environment and multi-dimensional class interactions.  She expects to continue working hand in hand with more donors and supporters in Duke Kunshan’s future development.

Chancellor Feng Youmei

Executive Vice Chancellor Dennis Simon described Duke Kunshan as a unique, experimental and innovative university. These qualities constitute its core competitiveness, which attract, in addition to outstanding students, faculty, and staff from all over the world, many donors and supporters.

Executive Vice Chancellor Dennis Simon

The dinner party also showed a student-created video of thanks. Students from the undergraduate and graduate programs talked about how the scholarships contributed to their personal and academic growth, and how they will pass on the generosity.  Representing all scholarship recipients, Wang Yechen from Hubei Province and Ludovica Girelli from Italy, shared their experience and reflections and expressed how they are committed to shaping the University as pioneers together with the whole community.

In a short span of seven weeks, I realized that Duke Kunshan students ought to become more than excellent learners. They should become outstanding scholars who are not only good at absorbing knowledge, but also willing to share it with more people.  What makes all of this possible is the long-standing support and help you have given to Duke Kunshan.  Your trust and support give us the courage and determination to build and shape Duke Kunshan.

-- Yechen Wang

“We are all pioneers of this new project that wouldn’t have been possible without you. You are investing and supporting the future, bringing all these passions, new brilliant ideas and excitement into place. Then not only we, but also you, are all pioneers, leaders of tomorrow.”

-- Ludovica Girelli

Scott MacEachern, Professor of Archeology and Anthropology, delivered a speech as a representative of the inaugural undergraduate faculty.  He said that he was deeply attracted by the prospect of teaching students from all over the world in an innovative and global university in China with an innovative liberal-arts curriculum. In the short time since the start of the semester, he has been greatly impressed by the students' strong thirst for knowledge, critical thinking and ability to solve complex problems, and hopes that these excellent students will become the pride of Duke Kunshan in the future.

Prof. Scott MacEachern as the faculty representative

Wendy Kuran, Associate Vice President for Development at Duke University, hosted a brief ceremony in recognition of three new donors.  Frances Chang, donor of the JF Progressive Scholarship, indicated that the purpose of her scholarship is to provide greater opportunities for the next generation of leaders to come to Duke Kunshan and experience the values of community, openness and diversity. She urged more people to contribute to Duke Kunshan to change lives and make the world a better place.

Wendy Kuran, Associate Vice President for Development at Duke University

Frances Chang, donor of the JF Progressive Scholarship

At the dinner party, undergraduates from the Class of 2022 presented a wonderful talent show. The climax of the event came when all the guests raised their glasses, as proposed by Chancellor Feng, and wished Duke Kunshan continued growth with the support from all over the world. Thus, the Thanks-giving Dinner & Scholarship Celebration ended in excitement and hope.

Cherry Jiang and Mingjing Da sang "Ballet in Spring"

Wu Tong, Hu Yutong, Ashley Santiago and others performed street dance

Final toast