Keh-Shew Lu, Chung-Shing Lee and Ming Chiang recognized the opportunity given to them by their former professor by naming a scholarship in his honor.
Dressed in suits, but relaxing casually in their seats, Chung-Shing “C.S.” Lee and Ming Chiang filled the room with their laughter as they traded quips and jabs with Keh-Shew Lu over the phone, telling jokes and finishing stories only the way friends of nearly 50 years can.
Professor Emeritus Kwong Shu Chao, a quiet, soft-spoken gentleman, leaned back in his chair, hands folded in his lap and a smile upturning the corners of his mouth, seeming amused at the banter between his former students.
Despite the humorous exchanges throughout the day, it was evident the men all held a tremendous amount of respect for each other, particularly the younger men for their former professor.
This level of admiration is no surprise to those who know their story.
In a path of events that combines luck, hard work and Chiang's statement that, “God's hand is on everything,” a request from Chao led Lu, Chiang and Lee to Texas Tech University – a new home in the United States that would transform their lives.
Across the World for an Education
Chao earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan before coming to the U.S. for an additional master's degree and a doctoral degree in the same field at Rice University.
He was offered a job as a professor at Texas Tech in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering soon after his graduation in 1968.
Russel Seacat, former chair of what is now the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, had called his counterpart at Rice University for potential candidates for a position. Chao was recommended for the position and came to Lubbock for what he thought was just a visit to the campus.
“I came up here and the chairman, before even doing anything, offered me the job,” Chao said, in a tone that seemed still surprised by the circumstances. “It's unthinkable these days. First thing in the morning he talked for a bit and then just gave me a job.”
That job offer launched a 40-year career at Texas Tech for Chao – an offer he is eternally grateful for.
“Dr. Seacat was instrumental in making everything happen for me,” Chao said.
Just as Seacat played a huge role in Chao's career, his open-mindedness and faith in his fellow faculty members had a key role in paving the way for Lu, Lee and Chiang to attend Texas Tech.
In the early 1970s, Chao and Seacat struck up a conversation about the possibility of recruiting electrical engineering students from the National Cheng Kung University to attend graduate school at Texas Tech.
The two professors worked together to secure scholarship funding for a graduate student and Chao reached out to the National Cheng Kung University to find a candidate.
Lu was a teaching assistant at that university when the announcement was posted on its bulletin board.
“I saw the announcement from Dr. Chao that said he had a scholarship opportunity, and whoever is interested can come. So, I immediately tore the poster down because I didn't want anybody else to see it,” Lu admitted to raucous laughter from the group. “Therefore, I was the only one from the electrical engineering department at the National Cheung Kung University that saw the post.”
Lu immediately wrote a letter to Chao about his interest in Texas Tech. In fact, he told Chao he loved Texas Tech, even though he did not even know where the university was or what it looked like – he was just eager for the opportunity to pursue an education in the United States.
Chao responded to Lu that if he could pass the GRE and TOEFL tests assessing academic readiness and English language ability, then he would offer him the scholarship.
“Dr. Chao told me ‘I cannot help you with the exams. You need to do it on your own,'” Lu said. “I prayed a lot and got it done, and I was finally able to attend Texas Tech.”
Lu began his education at Texas Tech in 1971 and stayed for both his master's and doctoral degrees. When Lu was nearly finished with his Ph.D. in 1976, Chao had secured scholarship funding for Chiang and Lee, who had also attended the National Cheng Kung University, to begin their master's degrees.
While Lubbock was certainly different than Taiwan, the three men remember being welcomed with the quintessential West Texas friendliness.
“For me, I remember the environment being very nice,” Chiang said. “The people and professors here were very friendly, like Texas style. They were very open-minded and straightforward, and that's something I liked very much.”
However, one American tradition they were not prepared for was college football.
“Now the first time I remember seeing Red Raider football I was like, ‘Whoa, what's going on?'” Chiang said emulating his initial surprise with eyes wide and arms thrown up. “We looked around, and everybody on the street was wearing red and black, Texas Tech colors. I was totally impressed.”
Lee was equally impressed by the atmosphere created at what is now the Jones AT&T Stadium.
He had purchased a student ticket for the 1978 season, and he and his wife attended every home game.
“We never sat down. We just spent the whole game standing and banging our hands on the seat backs in front of us,” Lee said laughing as he admitted, “I broke my wedding ring doing that.
“Then after the whole season, one of the last few games, my wife asked me, ‘Who has the ball? I can't find it,'” Lee added. “It doesn't matter, right? You don't need to know where the ball is. You just join in screaming whatever the other people do.”
While Red Raider sports helped the men become part of their new community at Texas Tech, they all credit Chao's mentorship, scholarship and welcoming actions as essential to their success in a new country.
“The first American community I was really involved in was Lubbock and Texas Tech,” Chiang said, “but I wasn't a stranger because Dr. Chao was really our bridge between American culture and our Chinese environment.”
At the time Lu, Lee and Chiang came to the United States, the exchange rate for the Taiwan dollar to the U.S. dollar was 40:1, meaning what money they did have, did not go as far here as it did back home.
“When we arrived (in Lubbock) 47 years ago, we barely spoke English,” Lee said. “Dr. Chao was gracious enough to offer us opportunities as teaching assistants, and that's the only way we could make a living to come to the United States for further education.”
The scholarships and teaching assistantships were make or break for these three men who would not have had the opportunity to come to Texas Tech without this funding.
When Lu arrived in the U.S., he was able to convert $600, and after paying for tuition, books and rent, all he had was $50 and a briefcase.
“I didn't really have the money to come to the U.S. to get a further education,” Lu said. “We all wanted to come to the United States for a higher education to get a job, to get a better life. But it's a dream, and it's not that easy. I appreciate Chao, Texas Tech and the United States for this opportunity to be where I am today.”
From Texas Tech to Texas Instruments
Lu graduated from Texas Tech with his doctoral degree in electrical engineering in 1977. Lee and Chiang followed shortly after, in 1978, with their master's degrees in the same program. Later on, Lee earned his MBA from the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business Administration in 1982.
Following graduation, the three men all worked for Texas Instruments, Inc. (TI), a global semiconductor company that designs, manufactures, tests and sells analog and embedded processing chips.
They each worked for TI for decades in several technical and managerial positions, rising through the ranks to serve in domestic and international leadership roles for the company.
At the time of their retirements around 2010, all three had executive roles. Lu was the senior vice president and general manager of worldwide mixed-signal and logic products. Lee was senior vice president of worldwide high-volume analog and logic business. Chiang served in a vice president role where he coordinated all design efforts and managed all process technology development and CAD methodology development.
Texas Tech's College of Engineering recognized their career successes by naming Lu, Chiang and Lee as Distinguished Engineers in 1996, 2001 and 2004, respectively. These are in addition to the multiple awards they have received from industry-based associations.
Their positions and accolades all spoke to the prestige and intellectual demand of their roles at TI. However, no matter what role they took on in their careers, they never forget where they started.
“Between me and Keh-Shu, we probably hold a 20-year legacy of TI's mixed-signal arena. During those 20 years, there were so many graduates of Stanford, Harvard, Cal Tech, wherever. They would come and interview saying, ‘I'm the graduate of so-and-so.' and I would say, ‘I'm a graduate of Texas Tech, and bad luck to you, you now work for me,'” Lee said to a response of roaring laughter.
Good and Faithful Stewards
While humorous comments punctuated nearly every conversation had with Lu, Lee and Chiang, sincerity, respect and fondness rang true with every word spoken about Texas Tech and their former professor, Chao.
None more so than Lee's description of the relationship between Chao and his former students.
“Your relationship with your teacher, with your mentor, with your adviser, that's a lifelong relationship,” Lee said.
Chao was not only an educator to these men, but he and his wife, Agnes, became a Lubbock family for them. He offered them advice as they prepared for their careers, and the couple opened the doors of their home to them for holidays and other occasions when they were unable to travel back to Taiwan.
“The family helped us a lot, especially our first several years in the United States,” Lu said. “We called Dr. Chao's wife shī mǔ, which is a respectful name for the wife of a teacher. She treated us like family.”
For Lu, Lee and Chiang, the opportunity Chao graciously provided them for an education at Texas Tech changed the course of their lives, and they wanted to honor him and help provide similar opportunities to students like themselves.
To do this, they established the Kwong Shu Chao Endowed Scholarship through a gift from each of them to the College of Engineering.
This scholarship is awarded annually to an international graduate student who is pursuing a master's degree with a thesis option in Electrical and Computer Engineering. They chose the thesis option criteria because they believe experience in research and writing a thesis is highly beneficial to students later in their careers.
This gift, inspired by Chao, was also driven by the men's strong Christian faith. In fact, they each have a long and devoted history to philanthropy and service to their community, which they believe is what they are called to do.
“I think that always in my blood is to be part of a team, to be part of a community” Chiang said. “From the Christian faith, we're just stewards. We don't have any capacity or capability to make money. It's all given by God. We just have to be good stewards of what he has given us.”
Each of the men is actively involved in their local churches and organizations within their communities. In Lubbock, Chiang continues his work with the Lubbock Chinese Church, where he attended as a student. At Texas Tech, Lu has established the Keh-Shew Lu Regents Chair Endowment in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering which supports a faculty member, currently Donald Lie, at Texas Tech.
In his community, Lee has made significant contributions to Children's Medical Center Dallas, honoring his daughter's miraculous recovery from pancreatic cancer. He set up an educational endowment which provides opportunities for the staff at the children's hospital to get continuing education.
“I used that opportunity to start practicing philanthropy,” Lee said. “I believe in philanthropy, and you have to practice it. The more you practice it, the bolder you become.”
Lu, Lee and Chiang have been and continue to be bold in their service to others. Whether it is their time or philanthropic contributions, they have boldly given. Though, they all agree giving becomes significantly more meaningful when you can honor someone who, like Chao, has given so much to you.
“To me, it is the greatest honor to be honored by these three gentlemen,” Chao said. “In our profession, the main product is students, and if the students turn around and try to do something for their professors, to do something for others and the community, I think this is the ultimate honor in our profession.”