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Letter to Student, Staff and Alumni from Academician Xu Zhihong

Today, Academician Zhou Qifeng returned to his alma mater to fill in my place as President of the University as I officially retire today. I have been President at Peking University for nine years since November 24, 1999. For a university, nine years may not be considered long, but as respect to a man’s life, it certainly isn’t that short either. If Peking University has grown in these past years, the credit should first go to the Country’s development, to the strategy of prospering the nation and strengthening country on talent; to the support of the Party Central Committee, State Council and Beijing City Council; and finally also to the support and love of the alumni around the world. It is precisely because of the Country’s emphasis on education and technology that we have received a long term and steady support; because of thirty years of reform and open policy’s economic miracle, and nearly twenty years of a stable society, that our students were able to learn in a peaceful environment, and our teachers were able to focus on their research.

I myself was admitted to Peking University in 1959, I spent those three hard years in this university and will never forget my experience here. Peking University nurtured me. Nine years ago, thirty-four years after leaving my alma mater, I returned to take the post as President with a unique emotion all Peking University students possess. In the past years, as the President of this university, I witnessed, with the whole student and staff body, the changes that Peking University has went through. We’ve gone through project 985 and 211; successfully finished the merging of Peking University and Beijing Medical University; survived the hard periods like SARS; welcomed the new millennium and also the Beijing Olympics. All I can say is that I have done my best during my time as President to share my portion of responsibility, but because of limited recourses, there are many places that may not have been done as desired. The tolerance, understanding, support and help from the students, staff and leaders are much appreciated.

First I would like to thank my adorable students. I have personally seen nine graduate classes off; they are China’s elite and the country’s future hope. Their love for Peking University is strong and sincere; their support, comments and even criticism towards me are my greatest motivation at work. I would like us all to think back on what I said to the student body nine years ago, “I urge everyone to ask yourselves frequently what your future can and will do for the Country’s strengthening and nationality’s growth.”

I want to show my gratitude towards the teaching staff at Peking University. Some of them are young, talented and already at the front line of technology, others have already dedicated their whole lives to education. Some teaches say that a University’s spiritual traditions are seen in the stories passed down generation by generation. Some of these stories are true, some have been interpreted into epic tales, these are the stories that have survived time’s trials and now represent a University. Our teachers are the creators of Peking University Spirit; they are the gardeners in the spiritual garden we all share.

I would like to thank all the alumni and friends of the PKU family; I have been shown great hospitality during each of the visit I make off campus on behalf of Peking University. Our diverse family of alumni has all achieved greatness in their respective fields of expertise and won fame for our school, when our Country or Campus was in need, they supported us with no questions, for that we will forever be grateful.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who I’ve worked with during my nine years as President. We fought together, shared laughter and tears, all of these will remain my most cherished memories. Nature’s law requires old generations to step down to be replaced by new ones. I am sixty-six this year, and I have completed my nine year journey as President of PKU. Here I would like to ask for one favor, that the whole student body, staff and other related people will all support the new President like they supported me. I believe that through all your efforts, Peking University will achieve greater things, and provide more for the Country and Society. I will remain a professor in the School of Life Sciences; we will continue to bump into each other at the cafeteria, the library and classrooms. As long as there is a need at PKU, I will be willing to do what I can for her.

This year PKU celebrated her 110th birthday, she has lapsed three centuries, seen the Chinese Nation achieve independent liberation and modernization. But no matter how history can change or what challenges we face, the real Peking University Man (and woman) will always care and protect the great PKU traditional spirit. May the Peking University Spirit continue to carry on through generations to come.

Thank you, once again to all the leaders, teacher and students who have shown support and help towards me all these years.


Edited By : Wang Yi
Translated By : Connie Chang

Source: PKU News (Chinese)