By JONATHAN LOBEL
A fundraising challenge led by Martin Y. Tang ’70, a graduate of the School of Engineering, Hong Kong businessman and University Trustee, has increased the amount of aid available to undergraduate international students at Cornell by 19 percent since 2008.
In 2008, Tang established the Martin Y. Tang International Scholarship Challenge to support scholarships and fellowships for international students at Cornell.
“For Cornell and other institutions to maintain their excellence, they really should be able to attract the best and brightest from around the world,” Tang said in a promotional video he made for the challenge.
In total, the Tang Challenge has raised $4.39 million in donations from 12 families, according to a University press release. Fourteen new scholarships have been established because of the challenge, not including the ones set up due to personal support provided by Tang, according to Ellen Walsh ’76, senior development officer for Cornell Alumni Affairs and Development.
As a result, about 15 to 20 students who previously would not be able to afford a Cornell education will now be able to take advantage of Cornell’s vast academic resources and majors, Walsh said.
While Cornell has been a leader in the U.S. in enrolling high numbers of international students, very limited financial aid for international applicants has prevented some highly qualified students from attending the University, Walsh said.
“Cornell is a global University and wants to be able to admit highly qualified international students who are unable to come here without scholarship support,” Walsh said.
She also noted that international students are especially in need of more financial aid due to costly travel expenses.
In 2008, before the Tang Challenge was launched, international students constituted approximately eight percent of the total undergraduate student body, according to the University press release. In 2013, the percentage had risen to nine percent, according to U.S News and World Report.
According to Walsh, the benefit of the Tang Challenge has actually been two-fold: While helping the University accommodate international students of all economic backgrounds, the challenge simultaneously enhances the Cornell experience for U.S. students. Due to the increasing presence of international students on campus, Cornell students are benefitting from exposure to a highly diverse student body that spans 120 nations, she added.
“All students will hopefully develop a much more worldly view and a familiarity with and an openness to people of other cultures. This environment provides a broader educational experience that is better preparation for the real world,” Walsh said.
Tang, a Hong Kong native, has been actively involved in Cornell activities for 30 years and has been especially focused on helping Cornell with its international presence and impact, Walsh said.
“[Tang] embraces what the University’s priorities are, works to share those with others, raises money for the priorities and serves in a very key role in terms of advising on international activity and involvement,” she said.
In addition to helping a significant number of international students afford a Cornell education, Tang also maintains close personal relationships with many of the students he helps, Walsh said. After graduating, many of these students keep in contact with Tang, as he serves as a helpful mentor to them, she added.
“He has always been very active in helping students stay connected to Cornell, find jobs after they graduate and helping young alumni network to find better opportunities as they’re developing in their careers,” Walsh said. “Cornell is extremely lucky that Martin [Tang] is such a phenomenally committed leader and alumni ambassador for the University.”