The enduring support of Dr Ronald Lu gives students a glimpse of the world and sees them safely through crisis
Dr Ronald Lu’s affiliation with UNSW spans more than 45 years, having been involved with the University as a student, alumnus, supporter, volunteer and advisor. Now the Chair of the UNSW Hong Kong Foundation, Dr Lu felt compelled to act as UNSW students began to feel the personal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I kept thinking: ‘Will the University close the dormitories? Where will the international students go? What about those who have lost their part-time jobs? How will they support themselves?’
“I knew how much of a financial burden and stressor this was going to be on the students, so I thought, ‘if my family and I can help in some way, then we will,’” says Dr Lu.
Dr Lu generously gifted $AU50,000 to the Student Emergency Response Fund (SERF) to rapidly assist international and domestic UNSW students facing financial insecurity, and associated consequences on their wellbeing and studies, as a direct result of the pandemic.
Having benefited from a grant himself, Dr Lu recalls: “I still remember during my second year of my masters at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I received a $AU1,000 grant to help with my tuition. And I thought, ‘wow, someone that doesn’t know me cares that young international students are eligible to receive financial help.’
“I think it’s great if you can help people you know, but I think it’s even greater to help people you don’t know,” says Dr Lu. “I hope that my giving will stimulate students to do the same in the future should they be in the position to give”.
As the Founder and chairman of the award-winning architectural practice Ronald Lu & Partners, Dr Lu boasts a string of outstanding achievements. But perhaps even more remarkable, is his steadfast commitment to supporting students to fulfil their academic aspirations.
A common thread underpinning Dr Lu’s generosity has been his commitment to fostering global community and networks, and enabling lifelong international learning experiences. Through the Ronald Lu Travelling Scholarship in Architecture, Dr Lu has funded students to undertake study tours in Asia; his ongoing gifts to the UNSW Hong Kong Alumni Scholarship have enabled students resident in Hong Kong to travel to Australia and study at UNSW.
“I think it’s wonderful to see different parts of the world and how people live,” says Dr Lu. “I remember in my second year of Architecture at UNSW, we had to choose our electives. One of my electives was sociology, and I really didn’t understand why I was studying it at the time. But later in life I realised its importance. Sociology helps you understand cultural norms and the behaviour of people from different regions. I’m glad my gifts enable students to travel and experience this.”
Dr Lu and his wife also sponsor a student from Hong Kong to attend high school in Sydney. “The young student is a top athlete with a disadvantaged background. We really wanted to help him, so we thought we’d give him the opportunity to study in Sydney,” says Dr Lu. Unfortunately, the student’s arrival coincided with the emergence of COVID-19, resulting in a part-time closure of the school. “Fortunately, the student went to live with my sister in Sydney, but it got me thinking about the students at UNSW who didn’t have that support.”
Due to the support of donors like Dr Lu, SERF had already allocated more than $3.7 million in emergency e-vouchers and grants to over 6,700 students in critical need by the end of May.
Dr Lu remains optimistic, even if he acknowledges “the world is changing, and health and safety is a primary issue.
“I’d like to congratulate UNSW for adapting so well to these conditions. I hope we can get over this quickly”.