Inspired by their roots, two alumni give back to UBC

Marian Leung and Tommy Tao’s legacy gift to UBC focuses on support for Hong Kong studies, as well as for Chinese literary translation.

Marian Leung and Tommy Tao both grew up in Hong Kong, but they wouldn’t meet until they were UBC students in the 1970s — at a gathering of the Chinese Students Association. Marian has warm memories of her first years in Vancouver.

“After my matriculation in Hong Kong, I came to Canada to study at UBC,” says Marian. “During my first couple of years in Vancouver, I stayed with a Norwegian-Canadian family who were so nice and although I was paying rent, what I received back from them was worth so much more.”

Tommy’s exposure to a western curriculum at the English language college he attended in Hong Kong provided a good start for his time at UBC.

They would graduate from UBC in the early 1980s — Marian with her Bachelor of Commerce and Tommy from law school after completing his BA in psychology. They found their degrees provided an excellent foundation for their professional lives.

Tommy’s law school experience provided the space and opportunity to make important life choices.

“The study of law turned out to be extremely important for my life. It enabled me to become financially independent,” says Tommy. “After a few years with a medium-sized law firm, I opened up my small law practice. That enabled me to choose the kind of clients I wanted to serve — specifically lower- and middle-income families.”

Marian and Tommy’s long history with UBC explains why they chose to make a gift in will to the university.

“We’ve always been thankful for having UBC as our alma mater,” says Tommy. “Because of our education, we were able to find employment. So, we live a comfortable life, not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re comfortable. Since we don’t have children, we have always had UBC in our thoughts for future testamentary gifts.”

Marian and Tommy stay engaged with their roots through their involvement with the Hong Kong Studies Initiative hosted by the UBC Department of Asian Studies which facilitates the creation and sharing of knowledge about Hong Kong’s past and present. It’s an initiative close to Tommy and Marian’s hearts, which they’re helping fund with their future legacy gift.

Their gift will also support Chinese-English and English-Chinese literary translation at UBC, a passion of Tommy’s. He has translated and published the best-selling Ode to the Lotus poetry collection by retired UBC Asian Studies Professor Florence Yeh Chia-ying.

“It’s a lasting legacy. It’s something that will enable a worthy institution to help up-and-coming future students make contributions to society,” says Tommy. “As donors, we do have to think about our own family. If we have children, of course, we will leave something to them. But we always ought to think about more lasting things like supporting worthwhile institutions, [such as] UBC and others.”