College of Engineering welcome, recognize distinguished Nebraska alumni from the '70s

College of Engineering welcome, recognize distinguished Nebraska alumni from the '70s

Calendar Icon Sep 20, 2017      Person Bust Icon By Phil Carter     RSS Feed RSS

The College of Engineering will welcome dozens of alumni from Asia during this week's Homecoming, many of the alumni have not returned to campus since graduating in the 1970s.
The College of Engineering will welcome dozens of alumni from Asia during this week's Homecoming, many of the alumni have not returned to campus since graduating in the 1970s.

The College of Engineering will welcome dozens of alumni from Asia during Homecoming weekend at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The returning alumni, originally from Hong Kong, China and Singapore, graduated from Nebraska between 1971 and 1978. Twenty-one of the 33 alums were College of Engineering graduates, with others graduating from programs in business administration, health education, journalism, mathematics, pharmacy, sociology and zoology.

For many of the guests, it will be their first visit to campus since graduating in the early 1970s. David Chen, vice president, global sourcing for Speedway Motors of Lincoln, organized the reunion. Chen said this same group reunited in Hong Kong two years ago, which was the motivation for this year’s Homecoming trip.

“We all decided, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could do this in Lincoln?’” said Chen, who is originally from Malaysia but settled in Lincoln after graduating from Nebraska with an industrial engineering degree in 1972. “Many haven’t been back since the '70s and they can’t wait to see campus. They’ll really be impressed with how the city and university have grown.”

Memorial Stadium, the Nebraska Union and Nebraska Hall are familiar buildings to the alums but have undergone changes since they were students. One thing that hasn’t changed for several graduates, most of whom are from Hong Kong, is the fondness they have for their “Lincoln families,” host parents who welcomed international students like Tony Lam into their homes for family gatherings and holiday meals.

“I was introduced to the Foreign Student Office Host Family Program in 1970,” recalled Lam, who graduated in 1974 in electrical engineering. “It provided me the opportunity to adjust and assimilate with the U.S. culture during my early days in Lincoln. Sadly, both members of my host family have long passed. Up to this day, I am very appreciative of how much the University of Nebraska helped a young foreign student start his college life in a foreign land." 

Alumni Veronica Cheung (1976), Alex Ng (1973) and Melvin Choi will visit with and honor Wayne and Verla Roelle, who served as host parents when they were students at Nebraska.

“Originally, most of the Hong Kong students were not assigned as their host students,” said Choi, a 1973 computer science major. “Since early 1970, every time they got to know one of the students through that student’s friends, the Roelles became that student’s de facto host family.”

The Roelles will be honored by Choi, Cheung, Ng and the other members of the alumni group as a token of appreciation for all they’ve done for international students at Nebraska.

“The kind of love given to me and other students by them made us feel like being at home with our own parents,” added Choi. “These feelings are still warm in our hearts after all these years.”

Members of the 1970s Nebraska Asian Alumni are also attending the Husker Homecoming football game vs. Rutgers on Saturday afternoon, giving many the chance to rekindle fond memories as Husker football fans. 

“My first impression of Nebraska was how vast and open the prairie was in the heartland,” recalled Jee K. Choy, a 1972 civil engineering graduate. “One of my classmates even invited me to my first football game. I believe it was against Iowa State in early November. I had no idea what to expect and was stunned to find half of the state in the stadium, all dressed in red, cheering their beloved team on.

Even though I did not know the game and very little about the team, I could feel the energy and the spirit of competition among the spectators and the players. I realized the true meaning of loyalty and commitment that day.”

Several additional reunion activities planned for the group begin Thursday, Sept. 21 with campus tours presented by the Nebraska Alumni Association, followed by an on-campus dining experience at Selleck Dining Center arranged by University Dining Service. In the afternoon is a Dairy Store ice cream social on East Campus and a trail walk. On Friday, Sept. 22 the alumni contingent will meet with officials at the College of Engineering, receive a tour of the facilities and attend an evening reception at the Van Brunt Visitors Center.

For more information, contact Phil Carter, coordinator, External/Community Relations, College of Engineering, at (402) 472-3198 or email: pcarter2@unl.edu