About President Chao Nee, 1905-1996
By Marian Tsu-Tsun (Nee) Chou
Chao Nee was born on March 1, 1905, in FuYang, AnHui, China. After 10 years of study under the traditional Chinese educational system in his home village, he passed the entrance examination for Tong Ji High School in Shanghai to be educated under the modern educational system. He studied four additional years at Tong Ji University, majoring in Civil Engineering. With financial help from three distant uncles, he was able to obtain a first-rate education from this prestigious university originally established by a German physician in 1907. After obtaining his B.S. degree, he worked two years as a Teaching Assistant at Tong Ji University. He was then selected as a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Scholarship to study engineering at Hanover University in Germany. In November 1937, he passed his oral examination and received an Engineering Ph.D. degree from Hanover University. During this time, he met his future wife, Ms. Ting-Wen Lee, who was then a Mathematics graduate student at Munich University in Germany.
Dr. Nee strongly believed in the importance of education. He was grateful for the financial help from his uncles at the right time to enable him to obtain the best possible education, paving a smooth path to his future. Dr. Chao Nee and Prof. Ting-Wen Lee Nee created the “ Nee-Lee Scholarship Fund” in 1971 to carry out their dedication to education. In 1977, President Chao Nee initiated and established the Cheng Kung Cultural Foundation (CKCF) in Tainan, Taiwan, along with help from 77 National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) faculty, staff and alumni. Since then, CKCF has managed the “Nee-Lee Scholarship” fund and, starting in 1990, the “Prof. Ting-Wen Lee Nee Memorial Scholarship” fund. Both scholarships have benefited many students in Taiwan as well as in mainland China over the years. After the passing of Dr. Nee in 1996, the “President Chao Nee Memorial Scholarship” fund was established by his children to be managed by CKCF. The designated recipients of this scholarship are college students residing in North America who are descendants of NCKU faculty, alumni and staff.
Career and Personal Timeline:
Dr. Nee returned to China to teach at Tong Ji University in 1938, and married Ms. Ting-Wen Lee in Kun Min, YunNan province, in 1939. Their first son, Tsu-Wei, was born in Kun Min 1940. To avoid heavy bombing during the war against Japan, Tong Ji University moved 5 times and finally settled in a small town called Lee Zhuang in SiChuan province. As the acting Dean of the Engineering College, he was responsible for the transport of university property to the new campus and for inviting teaching staff for the Colleges of Science and Engineering. His daughter, Tsu-Tsun, was born in Lee Zhuang in 1942.
In spring, 1944, Dr. Nee left his teaching career for an Inspection Engineer job at the Hydraulics Department in the Administrative Division of the Central Chinese government. He traveled from Chong Qing in SiChuan province to XinJiang province in China’s northwest. He worked hard for 8 months there, inspecting the local hydraulics development and potential and observing the racial and cultural diversity in the XinJiang region. He gained first-hand knowledge of XinJiang’s important impact in politics, economics and defense, which resulted in two books he wrote based on his time there: “Remembrance and Thoughts on the Inspectional Journey to XinJiang” and “Hydraulics in XinJiang”. His second son, Tsu-Jye, was born in Nanjing in 1947.
Dr. Nee and his family moved from Nanjing to Tainan, Taiwan, at the end of 1948. This move marked the beginning of his 30-year teaching career and a deep relationship with NCKU. At the time, the university was still called the Provincial Taiwan Engineering College and had one campus, 6 engineering departments and 500 students. The Civil Engineering Dept. was a small 2-story wooden building with an office, a few classrooms, a few drafting labs, and some survey instruments. During his administration as C.E. Department Head from 1949-1966, he established the Hydraulics Lab, Survey Research Lab, Environmental Study Lab, Structural and Material Sciences Lab, and Soil and Highway Engineering Lab. He also laid the foundation for professors to simultaneously have responsibility for teaching, research, and cooperation projects with industry. Finally, he established the undergraduate and graduate programs for the Hydraulics Engineering Dept., Survey Engineering Dept., and Environmental Engineering Dept. in the 1950s and 1960s.
From 1953-54, Dr. Nee was among the first group of exchange scholars at Purdue University in W. Lafayette, Indiana, in the United States. In addition to observing Purdue’s professors, research facilities and equipment, he also visited many other universities across the country. This experience enabled him to see the differences between the American and German higher educational systems.
In 1965 Dr. Nee was appointed Dean of the Engineering College and Director of the Engineering Science Research Center at NCKU. He worked hard to increase the presence of the research and engineering departments and successfully promoted engineering cooperation projects between CKU, Taiwan University, and Transportation University. Using his sabbatical, he visited Aachen University in West Germany for a month, researching Aachen City Planning and Transportation, as well as reconnecting with his old professors at Hanover University.
In 1971 Dr. Nee became President of National Cheng Kung University. At the time, NCKU had four colleges: College of Science, College of Arts, College of Business, and the College of Engineering. NCKU had a total of 20 departments, 9 graduate programs, 4 departments in the evening division, and student enrollment of 8,000.
(to be continued)