Illini Everywhere: Taiwanese Illini, Since 1922

Since at least 1922, Taiwanese students have been attending the University of Illinois. Early Taiwanese Illini have included athletes, chemical engineers, civil engineers, electrical engineers, food scientists, home economists, mathematicians, mechanical engineers, musicians, poets, sociologists, and student leaders too.

Read on to learn more about early Taiwanese Illini!

Early Illinois – Taiwan Connections

One of the first alumni to work in Taiwan was Mr. Robert E. Richardson, (B.A. 1901; A.M. Zoology, 1903), who was a biologist who returned to town to work for the State Natural Historical Survey in 1909. During his career, Mr. Richardson published research on fish in Illinois, the Philippines, and Taiwan (then Formosa) too. [1] Later, Mr. Frederick B. Nicodemus, (B.S. Civil Engineering, 1909), of Forreston, Illinois, worked as a missionary after graduation, and his work included at least one position as a teacher in the Formosa Government High School, from 1911 through 1916. [2] Mr. Nicodemus married fellow Illini Ms. Ella Cora Neubauer, of Highland, Illinois, and she worked as a teacher and dorm matron in Taihoku (now Taipei) too. [3] Meanwhile, Japanese Illini, Mr. Gikan Fujimura, (B.S. Science, 1911; M.S. Botany, 1911), briefly worked as a scientist for the Formosa Government Experiment Station, from 1911 through 1913. [4]

Alumni Ruth Caroline Kruegar (Record Series 26/20/133), worked in Taipei, from 1951 until 1956. The CIC-AID Rural Development Research File, (Record Series 8/4/40), includes information on higher education programs in Taiwan and its neighbors too. In fact, during the early 1950s, Illinois – Taiwan exchange programs were even considered, the Daily Illini wrote in 1952. At least as early as 1957, the Graduate School for Library and Information Sciences (now iSchool) was attracting Taiwanese librarians too, like National Taiwan University librarian and chief of processing, Chien-chang Lan, who visited during April 1957. In May 1960, Physical Education Professor Thomas K. Cureton (Record Series 16/3/21) held a clinic in Taiwan. In 1962, as a guest of Alpha Kappa Lambda, Taiwanese graduate student Houbert Sohn was invited to speak about geography and contemporary society in Formosa (now Taiwan). The General Correspondence File of former University President James J. Stukel (Record Series 2/15/1) include communications with colleagues in Taiwan, while even a 1981 trip to Taiwan is documented in alumni Howard E. Shuman’s photo album (Record Series 26/20/74).

Early Taiwanese Illini

One of the earliest Taiwanese graduates might be Mr. Chun On Ngan, (B.S. Chemical Engineering, 1924; M.S. Chemical Engineering, 1925) of Tainan, Formosa, who was an active table tennis competitor and a recognized writer  too. In table tennis, Mr. Ngan competed in campus tournaments in December 1922 and January 1923. In soccer, Mr. Ngan was active too. For the annual soccer matches between junior and senior classes, Mr. Ngan played on the 1923-1924 junior team. For the annual soccer match between foreign students and Americans, Mr. Ngan played for the foreign team. For the May Chinese Students Club annual social, Mr. Ngan wrote an original play titled “The Philosopher’s Stone”, which was previewed in multiple Daily Illini articles (May 3, May 4, May 5, and May 6). In fact, during the summer 1924 term, in his English 44 class, Mr. Ngan was awarded first prize for his poetry in a class competition. Mr. Ngan’s lyrical poem “A Chinese Love Lyric” was reprinted with other prize winners’ writings in the Daily Illini.

During the 1950s, Taiwanese student enrollment significantly increased, and early graduates included engineers and social scientists. One of the first graduate students was Mr. Clement Chang, (M.S. 1952; PhD Education, 1981) who later completed a doctorate at Illinois too. Dr. Chang became an administrator at Tamkang College (now Tamkang University), and he gave at least one Daily Illini interview while visiting the campus in 1962. Just a few years later, in 1955, graduated one of the first Taiwanese Illini women who was Ms. Pearl Chang-Chao Shih, (B.A. Sociology, 1955), of Taipei. Other early students included Mr. Chi-Tong Chin, (B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1956), of Taipei, who played the harmonica for the May 1955 Chinese Students’ Club social, and he was the Club editor for the Club publication ChinIllini for his senior year too. While Mr. Ying Yer Shieh, (B.S. Civil Engineering, 1956), of Tainin, pledged to the national civil engineering honorary society Chi Epsilon, in 1954.

Other graduates included Mr. Joseph Ching-Fu Chow, (B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1957; M.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1959), of Tainan Hsien, and Ms. Elaine Yen Chang, (B.A. Home Economics, 1958), of Taipei, who might not have left many records behind.

There was also Mr. Anthony Monshiun Kao, (B.S. Civil Engineering, 1959), of Peikan, and Mr. Stephen Sui-kuan Wang, (B.S. Electrical Engineering, 1959), of Tainan, who also might not have left many records behind.

Taiwanese Illini continued strong through the 1960s. Some early graduates included Mr. Kwang Gun Tan, (B.S. Electrical Engineering, 1960), Mr. William B. Chin, (B.S. Electrical Engineering, 1962), Mr. Kuang Tih Fan, (B.S. Mathematics, 1962; M.A. Mathematics, 1964), of Sintzu, and Mr. Bang-yi Ting, (B.S. Electrical Engineering, 1962), Taipei.

Later graduates included Mr. Solomon Suo-Lun Huang, (B.S. Electrical Engineering, 1963), of Taipei, Mr. Jih Hsin Yang, (B.S. Chemical Engineering, 1963; M.S. 1966; PhD Food Science, 1968), of Ilan, Mr. John Hsu, (B.S. Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, 1965; M.S. 1968;  PhD, 1971), of Taipei, and Mr. Tzu-Jung Kuo, (B.S. Civil Engineering, 1966).

By the 1970s, at least one Taiwanese Illini had a yearbook, and that was Mr. William H. Kao, (B.S. Electrical Engineering, 1970, M.S., 1972; PhD, 1976), of Taipei. Student enrollment figures document that Taiwanese student enrollment continued strong from at least the 1960s through the present day, including a great many graduate students whose many theses and dissertations are too great to fit into one blog post. Curious readers who need to know more will have to visit the University Archives to conduct their own investigations into the stories of the many Taiwanese graduate Illini.

Student Organizations

For the first fifty years of Taiwanese Illini history, like Chinese Illini, Hawaiian Illini, Hong Kong Illini, Indonesian Illini, Malaysian Illini, Singaporean Illini, some Taiwanese Illini were part of the large historic Chinese Students Club. However, by the 1970s, some Taiwanese Illini and other interested students formed additional student organizations to explore the cultures of the island of Taiwan too.

Since at least 1971, Taiwanese students have formed at least 7 student organizations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. [5] While some groups have lasted for solely one year, other groups have organized for many years.

In 1971, the Formosan Student Club was established. From 1971 through at least 1979, the Formosan Student Club organized cultural, recreational, and mutual support programs for student members. In the Student and Faculty Organization Constitution and Registration Cards, (Record Series 41/2/41), early registration cards cite friendship and recreation as the primary reasons for the Club’s existence. Not long later, after 1975, registration cards began including “mutual assistance” between Club members too. Meanwhile, from 1972 through 1977, the Taiwan Study Group was established to study the culture and society of Taiwan to exchange information with the University community. At least as early as 2002, today’s Taiwanese Student Association was established to continue to support Taiwanese students and to share Taiwanese culture with University community.

At the same time, Taiwanese Americans also began to organize student groups too. Among the earliest groups have included the Taiwanese American Students Club (1992-Present), Taiwan in Action (1997-98), Taiwanese Women Studies Group (1999-2000), the Taiwan Interculture Association (2001-Present), and the Formosa Volleyball Enthusiasts, to name a few.

For almost one century, Taiwanese students of all backgrounds have chosen Illinois to study and the Taiwanese Illini stories continue today, as student enrollment figures document that Taiwanese Illini enrollment has continued strong.

Are you a Taiwanese Illini? Do you know someone who is? We’d like to hear from you! Please send us a message or leave a comment below. We want to include you and your story, as we celebrate the first 150 years of the University of Illinois.

Happy First 150 everyone!

(A special thank you to 2017-2018 Taiwanese Student Association members for their support in the development of this work.)

References

[] As always, a special thank you to all students and staff whose tireless work for student life and publications (many of which are available at the University Archives) help preserve the memories of Illini everywhere.

[1] “Robert Earl Richardson”, The Semi-Centennial Alumni Record of the University of Illinois, Edited by Franklin W. Scott, page 153.

[2] “Frederick Bowman Nicodemus”, page 354.

[3] “Ella Cora Neubauer”, page 484.

[4] Mr. Fujimura was also the secretary for the Illinois Club of Japan, while he worked in Taihoku. Please see: “Gikan Fujimura”, page 417.

[5] Those registered student organizations have included: Formosan Student Club, Taiwan Study Group, Taiwan Student Association, Taiwanese American Students Club, Taiwan in Action, Taiwanese Women Studies Group, and Taiwan Interculture Association.

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