2016 Fredericton Convocation

Graduation Address

Delivered by: Ng, Siauw


"UNB Honorary Doctorate Graduation Speech" (20 October 2016): 1-3. (UA Case 67)

Your honour, Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President, members of the Board of Governors, distinguished honourees, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen: good afternoon.

I would like to start by sincerely thanking the Board of Governors who selected me and Dr. Ying Zheng of UNB Chemical Engineering who nominated me, for this prestigious degree. I am extremely pleased, honoured, and humbled to hold a place amongst so many eminent UNB honourees such as: John Diefenbaker, John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, Linus Pauling, Rita MacNeil, and Anne Murray, just to name a few.

Exactly fifty years ago, I first came to UNB as a graduate student studying chemistry. Four years later, at the same fall convocation as today’s, I was sitting in the crowd as a young Ph.D. graduate. As I recalled, at that time the Honorary Degree was conferred upon the past Prime Minister of UK, Harold Wilson. I listened with admiration to his speech. But in no way, had I imagined that one day people like yourselves would be listening to me deliver such a speech.

This is a day of special pride for me. I would like to thank my Alma Maters, both the National Taiwan University and the University of New Brunswick. The former established my solid foundation in science, but it was UNB that educated me with the advanced knowledge for meeting the challenges in this complex world. I thank my family, my wife in particular, and my employer, Natural Resources Canada, for constant support in my research. I would also like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to my friends, Dr. Sieu Phan and Dr. Roy Pottier, both were UNB graduates. Dr. Phan came with his wife Dr. Jeng, their two sons and a niece, Larry, Andy, and Louise, all three practicing medicine. They left PEI early this morning and drove 4 hours to Fredericton. I thank them for taking the time from their own busy schedule to honour me with their presence at this ceremony.

Well the highlight of this ceremony is the graduation of the class of 2016 – all of you! My goal here is to share some thoughts, based on my own experiences, that hopefully will inspire you.

First and foremost, I want to congratulate all of you on a tremendous accomplishment. You are now completing a major chapter in your book of life after a number of years of hard work. As I look into your faces today, I feel your pride and the accomplishment of achieving a major milestone. This milestone will inspire you in your encounters with opportunities and challenges throughout your life.

Please allow me to share with you a story. In 1970, I was in my final year of study at UNB. To me it seems like only yesterday. Upon my graduation, I spent 11 years with the iron ore industry in Quebec and close to 35 years with the Canadian Government in Ottawa and Devon, Alberta. The latter engaged me in research to convert Alberta’s oil sands into products used by our society each and every day, and to do this in the most environmentally sustainable way possible. This is a very challenging goal when we try to maintain balance between cost and product quality, between production and deteriorating environments, complicated by the oil sands structure and chemistry. When I started to work on it in the 80’s, I was somewhat apprehensive and asked myself if a non-native Canadian who spoke broken English and had limited knowledge of oil sands was qualified for this mission. The answer turned out to be a resounding ‘yes’, and the more experiences I gained, the more I appreciated how well UNB had prepaed me for the challenges I was facing. I must admit that I have had a rewarding and fulfilling career in my life. And now the baton is passed to you, and the challenge will be weaning our global society’s energy needs off fossil fuels in a new low-carbon-energy era. As graduates of UNB, you should be confident that your UNB education compares favorably with the best in the world, and that your future will be well served by your educational experiences here. Just as today, I am standing here to address a speech to you, one day, you may find yourself standing on this podium giving a speech to graduates who are not even born yet. Fellow graduates, we are about to separate, and engage in our respective future lives. So let me share with you a few more closing thoughts before we part ways:

  • Let us all strive to promote the best interests of our Alma Mater – UNB;
  • Remember that life is giving, not getting;
  • Be courageous of your convictions and stand up for what you believe;
  • Don’t be afraid of failure, or you will be afraid to succeed;
  • Take risks, but remember to calculate them first;
  • Be perseverant, be innovative, and last but not least, be confident.

Finally, I wish you all good luck and happiness, and much success in both your personal and professional lives.

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