Dr Sam Lam, Benefactor through the Centuries

Dining Hall, Trinity College

27 June 2018

Good afternoon, everyone

It’s now five years, almost to the day, since I unveiled the Benefactors Frieze, here in the Dining Hall – the college’s permanent and public testament to the generosity of individuals, groups, and corporations through the ages. This frieze is our tribute to those who have helped make Trinity great since the foundation of the college.

It begins with Queen Elizabeth the First and the Dublin Corporation in 1592 and continues on through a cycle of giving – bequests, grants of land, trusts and endowments – up to the present.

Today is a very special day. For the first time since the Frieze was unveiled five years ago, we are adding a new name to it. This is most significant. Of course, in the past five years, we have benefitted from the generosity of alumni and friends. Many people have given invaluable support and all are deserving of thanks and praise. But to crowd the Benefactors Frieze would be to diminish it. So the names on this Frieze are of those who have given truly exceptional support.

By adding Dr Samuel Lam’s name to this frieze, we commemorate his exceptional support to Trinity College Dublin.

Dr Lam is a graduate of Trinity medical school, and he is an exemplary alumnus who, throughout a remarkable career in Canada and Hong Kong, has remained connected to the college. Whenever I am in Hong Kong – most recently three months ago – it’s a pleasure for me to meet with Dr Lam and his wife, Ellen, and to talk with them about Trinity and our progress here. Their warm interest and deep connection to the College means so much.

A few years ago, Dr Lam and his family became a key part of the academic history of Trinity College, if you like, when they enabled the development of Chinese Studies as a disciplinary field. This has been a hugely exciting development. All research universities today need to be strong on Chinese Studies which is an absolutely essential discipline in the 21st century.

Thanks to the Lam family, Trinity was able to establish a Masters in Chinese Studies, underpinned by the Sam Lam Associate Professorship in Chinese. This was transformative for the college. The inaugural holder of the associate professorship was Adrian Tien, a truly gifted scholar and educator, whose untimely loss earlier this year was felt by the whole college. We mourn his loss; we remember the wonderful work he did in his time here and his success in launching Chinese Studies as a dynamic new field in Trinity.

The Lam family have now increased their support and commitment and the college is delighted to announce the Sam Lam Director of Chinese Studies. The person appointed to this role will be a world authority on China and will provide the vision and experience necessary to embed Chinese Studies as a field of study and research for all students in Trinity, from undergraduates upwards.

When I say ‘all students’, I should point out that, through the on-going Trinity Education Project, Mandarin Chinese has been selected as one of a small number Trinity Electives which, as of September, every undergraduate student must choose to study, in conjunction with their core field of study. Mandarin Chinese is the only language elective – this gives an idea both of Trinity’s commitment to Chinese studies, and our students’ interest in it.

We could not have developed this elective, nor indeed the field of Chinese Studies without the remarkable support of Dr Lam and his family. I believe that he was motivated both by his affection for Trinity and Ireland and his wish to do something substantive here, and his patriotism and wish to share the richness of Chinese language, history and culture with the world. We are all the winners here – Trinity, Dublin, Ireland and China. Trinity already enjoys substantial research and education collaborations with universities and institutes in China, including with Beihang, Peking, Tsinghua, Fudan, and Tongji Universities. Investment in Chinese Studies here on campus can only enhance and expand these collaborations.

The new Sam Lam Director of Chinese Studies and the new elective in Mandarin Chinese will have a truly transformative effect. Currently a small minority of students are studying Chinese; this is going to explode. I look forward to welcoming Dr Lam and his family here many times over future years so that they can experience for themselves the palpable and concrete effect of their generosity.

May I now invite all of you to look up at the Benefactors Frieze and welcome the new name. Over four and a quarter centuries, there are a select few names on the Frieze. We now celebrate the 55th name: Dr Samuel Lam.

Thank you.

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