Chinese Executive's Gift Aids Honors Program

Published on May 24, 2017

Since 1990, the Eastern Kentucky University Honors Program has sent more than 900 student presenters to the annual conference of the National Collegiate Honors Council – a number that far surpasses that of any other Honors college or program in the nation.

Now, a recent endowment gift will enable EKU Honors students to “extend and deepen the program’s tradition of excellence and national leadership,” said Director Dr. David Coleman.

Photo of Benson with LiThe gift also signifies that the program’s reputation for opportunities afforded to students even reaches around the globe. Chunbo Li, chairman of the Zhejiang Medicine Company (ZMC), one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in China, recently pledged an additional $300,000 to the ZMC Endowed Scholarship Fund, established in 2014 with an initial gift of $200,000. The money will be used for Honors scholarships and travel grants.

Twenty-seven conference presentation proposals submitted by EKU Honors were recently accepted for the upcoming NCHC annual conference in November in Atlanta.

The partnership between the University and ZMC dates back to 1999. Since then, eight ZMC employees have earned bachelor’s or master’s degrees at EKU, with seven of the eight also completing an English language program on the Richmond campus. In turn, ZMC has invited 21 EKU professors to lecture in China at no cost to the University.

Chairman Li confirmed the gift during a recent meeting with EKU President Michael Benson and business professor Dr. Chang-Yang Lin, project director of the exchange program, at Li’s ZMC office in Xinchang in the Zhejiang Province.

“This is an incredibly generous donation from Chairman Li, who continues to support the University by sending his employees to EKU to complete advanced degrees in occupational safety and business,” Benson said. “Professor Lin has done a remarkable job in cultivating this relationship for years, and I was so pleased to join him in representing the University.”

Benson and Lin were also on hand for a 20th anniversary celebration of the founding of ZMC, which specializes in the large-scale production of fat-soluble vitamins, quasi-vitamins, quinolone antibiotics, anti-drug-resistant antibiotics and other products. Benson joined Dr. Hansjüerg Wetter, former global head of chemical operations for Novartis Pharmaceutical, as the two speakers for the program, in addition to Chairman Li.

Li, the key figure in ZMC’s transition from a state-owned company into a privately-owned international corporation, received an honorary doctor of laws degree from EKU in 2011, when he also addressed graduates at a spring commencement ceremony. Then-EKU President Doug Whitlock introduced Li as “a widely respected business leader, a philanthropist whose love for humanity knows no bounds, and a valuable and cherished partner of Eastern Kentucky University.”

Li’s niece, Nina Liu, graduated magna cum laude from EKU in 2007 and served as the interpreter for his commencement address.

Inset photo: President Benson with Chairman Li