There's a Long History Behind This Chinese Donor's Gift to Central Connecticut State

What do a noted Chinese industrialist and calligrapher have in common with a state university in Connecticut? Apparently enough that the industrialist's estate just gifted $6.5 million to the university, the largest donation the university has ever received. And this isn't the first time this has happened. This guy's trail of gifts stretches back almost twenty years.

What's going on here?

Let's start at the beginning. Dr. Huang Chang-Jen (1916 - 2012) was a Chinese immigrant who made his way to the U.S. in the 1950s. After receiving a degree in civil engineering in China, he got his master's in 1954 from the University of Michigan. After working for a state roads project, he shifted gears to begin a dynamic international career in industry. He founded the Bangkok branch of the U.S. Summit Corporation, a seller of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and industrial equipment. He later became general manager of the Panama branch of Summit and leased and reconfigured the Bangkok oil refinery from the Thai government, building one of the largest conglomerates in Southeast Asia.

That's Dr. Huang wearing his industry hat. But he was also committed to education and learning, particularly with respect to celebrating and understanding Chinese culture. From 1986 to 1995, he donated more than $6 million to universities and colleges in China, including to his alma mater where he set up a scholarship under his name. 

One school called Ouyang Yu Experimental Middle School was interested in partnering with an American school. Dr. Huang paid the bill, funding a top graduate's travel and studies at Central Connecticut State University. The first graduate made his trip in 1996, and the scholarship has continued on an annual basis ever since. It makes sense, then, that Dr. Huang's estate would continue this philanthropy or even ramp it up. 

Dr. Huang also helped found the Asian Liver Research Center at Stanford University and even established his own style of calligraphy called called "Huang cao," aimed at preserving Chinese culture. Huang's more recent giving has been administered through the C. J. Huang Family Foundation, which Huang's wife runs. 

This latest $6.5 million will target Dr. Huang's existing study abroad program and establish a new fund providing scholarships for students at CCSU's Schools of Business, Education and Professional Studies, and Graduate Studies. The gift will also provide support for a proposed athletic center.