MY WASHINGTON • Spring 2003

Remembering the support he received from his teachers, colleagues, and friends while at the School of Medicine, Shi Hui Huang, H.S. '59, has been a good friend of the University for more than 40 years, including serving as the founding chair of the International Advisory Council for Asia.

Fifty years ago, when Shi Hui Huang came from Taiwan to St. Louis to further his medical education, he had to pull out a map to find the city. In 1953, few Asians came to the United States to study, and Washington University in St. Louis was not exactly a household name in any part of the world.

Forty years later, Dr. Huang became Washington University's first international trustee and helped launch the International Advisory Council for Asia. Today, 10 percent of students at the University come from abroad, two-thirds of these from East Asia, and alumni clubs are active from Taiwan to Hong Kong to Singapore. As Chancellor Emeritus William Danforth wrote in 1998, when Huang became a trustee emeritus, "Your joining the board was a very key event in the history of our institution. ... Washington University is better today because of you."

Huang's contributions to the University are only the tip of the iceberg in a lifetime of extraordinary leadership. Very few people become eminent in a single profession; Shi Hui Huang has achieved international success in two. After training at the Washington University School of Medicine, Huang practiced as a highly regarded neurosurgeon for 25 years. In 1979, following the death of his father, he returned to Taiwan to lead his family's business, and today he is chairman of the board of Chinfon Group, a leading Asian industrial and financial giant with more than 20 companies worldwide.

"Not many people are given this kind of opportunity," Huang says. "I regard myself as a very fortunate person to have been exposed to these two fields. I will not say that I am successful in both, but a lot of nice and capable people have helped me along the way, for which I have always been grateful. For me, to be a good and responsible worker one has to have a sincere heart, a modest attitude, a learning urge, and a helping hand. Physicians and businessmen are not that different in this regard."

A Learning Urge

Huang was a recent graduate of the medical school at National Taiwan University when a friend persuaded him to come to Missouri Baptist Hospital for further training. Nine months later, Huang jumped at the chance to study at Washington University under the renowned neurosurgeon Henry G. Schwartz—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He worked with Schwartz for five years, and he says, "In Taiwan we were doing neurosurgery in a more primitive way. So I had some catching up to do, especially as a foreign student."

Ralph G. Dacey, Jr., the Henry G. and Edith R. Schwartz Professor and chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery, says, "Dr. Huang embodied the spirit of the neurosurgery department as a scholar and hard-working physician. Dr. Henry Schwartz, the head of neurosurgery at that time, was extremely fond of Dr. Huang and treasured his visits to St. Louis in recent years. Dr. Huang's generosity has made it possible for a new generation of young neurosurgeons to aspire to the standards he set as a resident."

" ... For me, to be a good and responsible worker one has to have a sincere heart, a modest attitude, a learning urge, and a helping hand. Physicians and businessmen are not that different in this regard."

Later in life, Huang became a very generous supporter of both Taiwan University and Washington University. He says, "Since I don't practice medicine anymore, I can only help and cure patients indirectly. These two institutions' medical schools are among the best, so this is an alternative means for me to continue my duties as a doctor."

Since 1992, Huang has given nearly $4 million to endow professorships and support academic operations for the Department of Neurological Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, and to support the Danforth Scholars program. Huang remembers his colleagues as "very important to me. They were my dearest teachers and colleagues, forever family and friends, who gave me a lot of support, assistance, and love. We were all very close, and I respect them a lot. It was very fortunate for me to have them as my teachers and good friends, and they made my stay and practice in St. Louis a lifetime-cherished experience."

Medical Practice

Following his training at the School of Medicine, Huang returned to Asia. Because of the unstable political climate in his native Taiwan, he established a neurosurgery center at Yodogawa Christian Hospital in Osaka, Japan. Although he recalls that "living in Japan at that time as a foreigner was very difficult," Huang remained for 14 years before returning to St. Louis in 1975 with his wife and three children. He had planned to return earlier, but the Yodogawa Hospital encountered a management crisis and Huang was appointed acting superintendent. He stayed to help.

Back in St. Louis, Huang returned to Washington University and the Barnes Hospital Department of Neurosurgery. He stayed in St. Louis four more years, serving at Veterans Administration Hospital and City Hospital.

Second Career

When his father died in 1979, Huang took a year's leave of absence to deal with his family's affairs. He knew his father had several companies, but he was surprised to discover there were more than 30, including the largest manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles in Taiwan. For a time he continued to pursue both business and science, serving as a professor of medicine at Taipei Medical College in Taiwan until the demands of running an international corporation became too great.

Leaving neurosurgery was a difficult decision, but Huang approached it with a surgeon's precision. Of his two careers, he reflects, "If there are differences, I think the biggest is that physicians try to keep patients healthy and happy, and serve patients, while businessmen try to keep a company healthy and happy, and serve the society."

Huang's healing hand has served his companies, and society, well. Today Chinfon Group's interests range from manufacturing and selling automobiles and motorcycles to commercial banking, financial services, construction, trade, and overseas investments concentrated in the United States, Southeast Asia, and China. It is one of the largest foreign investors in Vietnam.

A Global Community

In 1996, Washington University launched the International Advisory Council for Asia (IACA), and Shi Hui Huang agreed to serve as its first chairman. The group of distinguished alumni and friends works to strengthen the University's ties to educational, corporate, and government institutions in Asia and to bring scholars and leaders to campus in St. Louis as part of a rich, diverse student experience. At his inaugural address in 1995, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said, "Washington University will remain among the leading educational institutions only if we are preparing our students to live and work in an increasingly international world."

Huang, now emeritus chair, says, "What makes the IACA great is that all the members are dedicated to making Washington University a better university. I am very honored to have been given the opportunity to serve." He also serves as the international chair for the Campaign for Washington University.

William A. Peck, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the medical school, sums it up: "Shi Hui Huang is a man of incredible accomplishments; he is an outstanding neurological surgeon, a world-leading industrialist, a major contributor to the betterment of Southeast Asia, and a wonderful husband and father. His major contributions to our Department of Neurological Surgery, under Ralph Dacey's direction, have assisted significantly in propelling it into the upper ranks of departments of its kind in the nation and the world."

—Susan Wooleyhan Caine