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Zhengyun "Debby" Qian and Dr. William Q. Wu exchange gifts

An International Friendship

UMKC professor emeritus funds scholarship to support Chinese-American partnerships

When he was eleven-years-old, Dr. William Q. Wu emigrated from China to the U.S. without his family. To help him further his education, Dr. Wu's parents had arranged for him to live with his uncle in Philadelphia. Growing up in the Chinatown of Philadelphia, Dr. Wu endured loneliness. But with hard work and the help of a caring teacher, he eventually received undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan. Today, 97-year-old Dr. Wu is a retired, internationally-respected neurosurgeon and professor emeritus of the UMKC School of Medicine.

Knowing the struggles students face and hoping to advance friendship and understanding between the Chinese and Americans, Dr. Wu created the William Q. Wu Merit Scholarship Fund in 1990. The fund assists Chinese students studying at UMKC and UMKC students studying in China. UMKC International Academic Programs manages the scholarship fund, which has helped 18 students complete undergraduate or graduate studies.

In gratitude to Dr. Wu, Chinese student and 2009 scholarship recipient Zhengyun “Debby” Qian and UMKC International Academic Programs visited Dr. Wu in the summer of 2009. Thanks to the William Q. Wu Merit Scholarship Fund, Qian can focus on earning a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Teaching English to the Speakers of Other Languages through the UMKC School of Education.

To thank Dr. Wu for his support, Qian presented him with a red Chinese paper cutting of a tiger. She created the tiger, because it is the Chinese symbol for health and power.

"I hope you will be as healthy as a tiger," Qian told him in English and Chinese. “The scholarship has helped me a lot. Life is so hard for me here in the U.S., because I don't have any family members who can help me. But I do love teaching and research, because I think education can change people's destiny. My destiny was changed by education.”

Dr. Wu then presented Qian with an autographed copy of his autobiography, “Monsoon Season.”

Although the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prevented Chinese immigrants from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens, Japan’s attack of the U.S. and its history of conflict with China motivated Dr. Wu to join the U.S. Army as a surgical resident. In December of 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act, which lifted restrictions on naturalization and allowed Chinese to be considered as American citizens. After the act was signed, Dr. Wu became a U.S. citizen and received a Bronze Star Medal.

After becoming a neurosurgeon in the late 1940s, he moved to Kansas City in 1950 and became the first non-white doctor accepted into the local medical society. Wu also was active in associations that focus on U.S.-China relations. Dr. Wu shared 63 years of marriage with his late wife, Cecile, and raised two sons.

"It feels very good to meet one of the scholarship recipients," Dr. Wu said. "I'm very happy about the scholarship, and I hope it continues to help more students."

The 2009 Wu Scholarship is open to full-time UMKC students, alternately awarded to U.S. citizens and Chinese nationals. Visiting students are not eligible. The American students must study some aspect of China, and maintain a grade-point average of 3.25 or higher. The Chinese students can be from all disciplines with equally high academic credentials. Undergraduates must have had two UMKC semesters before applying, graduate students must have had one previous semester before applying and first-year professional students must have had one previous semester before applying. Depending on the number of qualified applicants, the award value ranges between $500 and $2,500. To learn more about the William Q. Wu Merit Scholarship Fund, call UMKC International Academic Programs at (816) 235-5759.


Posted: June 22, 2009

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"I think education can change people's destiny. My destiny was changed by education.”

Zhengyun "Debby" Qian
UMKC School of Education graduate student