14 April 2009

World-renowned Computer Scientist Professor Benjamin Wah Appointed CUHK Provost

The Council of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) announced today (14 April) the appointment of world-renowned computer scientist Professor Benjamin Wan-sang Wah as Provost, for a term of five years. Professor Wah is expected to assume duty before the end of 2009. He is also appointed as Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.

Celebrated Scholar with Strong Bonds to Hong Kong and CUHK

Currently the Franklin W. Woeltge Endowed Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Professor Wah is a prominent computer scientist, with expertise in non-linear programming, multimedia signal processing and artificial intelligence. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and has served as the President of IEEE Computer Society. Professor Wah has received numerous international honours and awards for his distinguished academic and professional achievements. Among these are the W. Wallace McDowell Award, the Tsutomu Kanai Award and the Richard E. Merwin Distinguished Service Award of the IEEE Computer Society.

Professor Wah enjoys close ties with Hong Kong and especially CUHK. In 1998-99, he was Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at CUHK, and in that year received an Exemplary Teaching Award. His bonds with the University continued afterwards as he served in the capacity of Adjunct Professor in the Department from 1999 to 2003.

Professor Wah has also long been committed to enhancing the development of higher education and research in Hong Kong. He has been a member of the Research Grants Council of the University Grants Committee in Hong Kong since 2005, and has been the Chairman of its Engineering Panel since 2006.

CUHK Vice-Chancellor Professor Lawrence J. Lau is pleased with the appointment of Professor Wah as the Provost. He remarked, “As a world-class researcher and a dedicated teacher, Professor Wah will certainly put to good use his visionary leadership and solid knowledge of the higher education situation of Hong Kong.”

Professor Wah expressed his pleasure of being appointed as the Provost of CUHK and welcomed the opportunity to come back to serve the people of Hong Kong, “As the principal academic officer, I shall work as the deputy to the Vice-Chancellor and lead CUHK in achieving its vision: to become a first-class comprehensive research university. I would like to work with all staff and students to promote and enhance the unique environment of CUHK which combines Chinese tradition with modernity, in order to contribute and excel in research, education, human resource training, service, and leadership in Hong Kong, Greater China, and the world.”

Born and brought up in Hong Kong, Professor Wah graduated from Queen Elizabeth School and pursued further studies in the US. He received his BS and MS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Columbia University, and his MS in Computer Science and PhD in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He began teaching in Purdue University in 1979, and later joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1985, which he has served until now. He also serves as Director of the Advanced Digital Sciences Centre established by the University of Illinois in collaboration with the Singapore government’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Worldwide Search for Provost

Deputizing for the Vice-Chancellor as the principal academic officer of the University, the Provost will work closely with the Vice-Chancellor on strategic planning, development, implementation, assessment and improvement of all academic programmes. He will promote campus-wide academic initiatives and define development priorities. He will be responsible for ensuring academic excellence in the University by making plans for proactive academic recruitment and retention of quality staff of high international standing. In consultation with the Senate and with the support of the Faculties and other academic and relevant administrative units, the Provost makes and executes plans for the delivery of quality education to both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The Council of CUHK approved the establishment of the post of Provost in 2007. A five-member Search Committee was established with a composition as approved by the Council, comprising Dr. Edgar WK Cheng, Council Chairman; Professor Lawrence J Lau, Vice-Chancellor; Professor Kenneth Young, Pro-Vice-Chancellor; Professor Fok Tai-fai, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine; and Professor Fung Kwok-pui, Head of United College.

A global search was launched in January 2008 by advertising worldwide, soliciting nominations and applications from overseas and local academic leaders including members of the University, and engaging a professional search consultant firm. A total of 39 applications, nominations and referrals were received. After careful review and deliberation, the Search Committee unanimously recommended Professor Benjamin Wah to the Vice-Chancellor for nomination to the Council for appointment as Provost of the University.

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