Who are the top donors to education?

BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores () - September 26, 2011 - 12:00am

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.  —Victor Hugo

MOUNT WUYI, Fujian, China — An unforgettable highlight of my weeklong tour of five cities across booming Fujian province is my climbing the beautiful mountain range and rafting on the river of Wuyishan (thanks for the great help and advice from Dagupan business leader George Chua Cham, Fujian’s Overseas Chinese Commission, and my Twitter followers).

Popular for its rugged beauty and famed for its Da Hong Pao tea, Mount Wuyi was where the great Song Dynasty teacher Zhu Xi taught and wrote neo-Confucian books. Memorials to Zhu Xi and his academy on Mount Wuyi exemplify reverence for teachers and learning. 

I believe that support for teachers and education is one of the catalysts behind the modern-day economic miracle of East Asia.

Years ago I donated to the Bahay Tsinoy Museum in Intramuros, Manila (led by activist Teresita Ang See) a document over a century old by the Chinese government on the philanthropic support my paternal ancestors — uncle Ambassador Howard Q. Dee, Chinabank chairman Gilbert Dee and president Peter S. Dee — gave to a school in Fujian province.

Big or small, Asian entrepreneurs traditionally believe it is a moral responsibility and also a blessing to support education.

Taipans Who Support Education

Congratulations to JG Summit Holdings, Inc. founder John Gokongwei Jr. on the auspicious launching tomorrow afternoon of the Gokongwei College of Engineering at De La Salle University in Taft Avenue, Malate, Manila. This is another significant milestone in the amazing life of the visionary Fujian-born “rags-to-riches” taipan behind Cebu Pacific Air, C2, Robinsons malls, Sun Cellular, Great Taste Coffee and many other businesses.

The simple-living Gokongwei has already donated P500 million to both La Salle and Ateneo, not counting his previous donations to other schools in Metro Manila and Cebu, nor his sending outstanding Filipino youths to study Chinese language and history in Beijing and Shanghai.

Coincidentally, Gokongwei’s son, JG Summit Holdings president Lance Y. Gokongwei’s parents-in-law Ricardo and Rosita Leong of the packaging business, also donated both Ateneo’s Leong Building and the Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies, which promotes Chinese-language education at the Ateneo (outsiders are welcome to enroll in short courses).

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One taipan who is probably the biggest single donor to Philippine educational causes, but not one for consolidated grand gestures, is the simple-living Lucio Tan. University of Santo Tomas (UST) rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, OP, said: “In the campus, all the buildings are constructed at the expense of the university. The only structure that is not financed by UST is the Tan Yan Kee building, courtesy of Lucio Tan, who did not even graduate from the university.” Tan Yan Kee was Lucio Tan’s late invalid father.

Apart from the hundreds of public school buildings he donated under the “Operation Barrio Schools” project of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII), Tan is also perhaps the biggest donor towards the promotion of math, sciences, English and Chinese-language education in the Philippines.

Tan has also invested in the University of the East (UE), which his son Michael “Mike” Tan explained to me is their non-profit and philanthropic endeavor. By the way, Philippine STAR reader and Asia Brewery’s Mike Tan also confirmed that his bright nephew Lucio Tan III is indeed enrolling at Stanford University.

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Manuel “Manny” V. Pangilinan is no doubt one of the biggest donors to Philippine education, especially in the field of sports development, where he is virtually unchallenged. The biggest and most generous donor to the Ateneo for many years in diverse ways, MVP is former chairman of Ateneo’s board of trustees and now chairman of his high school alma mater San Beda College.

When I once asked MVP about his donation to his US alma mater, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Pangilinan was candid and fair enough to clarify that this was actually the donation of Anthoni Salim in honor of his father, Indonesian taipan and First Pacific Group major shareholder Liem Sioe Liong in 1995. MVP explained, “I introduced them to the school, that’s my only role there. It was really Anthoni Salim.”

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A low-key taipan who is one of the biggest donors in education, according to former Ambassador Bienvenido Tan, is the philanthropist Angelo King, whose generous educational charities are numerous and so diverse all over the Philippines. King has also donated to the prestigious Peking University in Beijing.

Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. (TMP), led by Metrobank Group taipan George SK Ty in December 2009 inaugurated the one-hectare GT-Toyota Asian Cultural Center in the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

The GT-Toyota Asian Cultural Center is home to the GT-Toyota Hall of Wisdom and the GT-Toyota Asian Center Auditorium — two structures built with the P100-million donation by the country’s top car manufacturer. GT is, of course, the initials of George Ty, who is also behind the annual project to honor outstanding teachers of the Philippines.

SM and BDO founder Henry Sy not only has SM scholarship grants, he has invested a lot in upgrading Philippine education through National University (NU), the Asia Pacific College and Far Eastern University (FEU).

Philtrust Bank’s Emilio T. Yap has invested much in Centro Escolar University, while RCBC’s Alfonso Yuchengco bought and expanded the Mapua Institute of Technology.

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Ateneo Art Auction For Scholars

Philstar.com CEO Kevin Belmonte suggested I write about the annual Ateneo Art Auction for the benefit of scholarships, a noble project that last year gathered many business leaders and top art collectors. This year’s live auction will be on Oct. 1, Saturday, 4 p.m., at the Finale Art File located in the La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati.

Though I’m no tycoon but an ordinary entrepreneur, I love art and last year won the bids for works by Rodel Tapaya and Geraldine Javier. The interesting Tapaya work, entitled “Mrs. Eggplant,” was the oil painting featured in the Ateneo Art Auction 2010 poster, while the Javier work, titled “Our House,” I agreed to resell to a businessman friend right there and at same price upon his request. At the 2009 Ateneo Art Auction, I bought a work by Elmer Borlongan.

I support this project due to the fact that Ateneo’s then admissions and aid director Fr. William Kreutz, SJ, approved my handwritten request for a college scholarship in just one day when I was a student.

However, I stupidly discontinued receiving financial aid due to embarrassment at the separate line for scholars during every enrolment. I suggest that Ateneo and all other schools not have separate lines for scholars during enrolment, and that scholars be given the choice of whether to keep their scholarships confidential or not.

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Thanks for your letters! E-mail willsoonflourish@gmail.com or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Twitter and Facebook.

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