President Xia’s Insights Helped NCKU Lay the Foundation for a Top Comprehensive University
/ Han-Min Xia / Former President of NCKU
NCKU’s success has been created in the hands of all presidents since it was established ninety years ago. Former president Han-Min Xia’s endeavors to expand campuses, set up the College of Medicine, and elevate NCKU to be a comprehensive university while improving the healthcare services in southern Taiwan to ensure the wellbeing in local communities are worth mentioning and will always be remembered as a respectable president in the university’s history.
An Industrious Student and High Achiever at School; In and of Alma Mater Three Times to Make NCKU a Prominent University
Born in 1932, Dr. Han-Min Xia grew up in a poor family in Fujian Province of China. His father died when he was a little child, so he had been sent to an orphanage for four years. He decided to study hard to find a pathway out and was admitted to Fujian Industrial School on a tuition-free status. In 1949, he and his mother arrived in Taiwan. Shortly thereafter he was enrolled in the Dept. of Marine Engineering, Naval Academy. After graduating from college, he continued to get a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at NCKU. Upon graduation, he got a full scholarship at Oklahoma State University-Stillwater due to his excellent grades in college and an equally excellent Navy service records. He went to U.S. to be enrolled in a PhD program in mechanical engineering with a specialty area in radiation heat transfer.
Dr. Xia had been in and out of NCKU for three times. He was an undergraduate student, then a professor and a department chair, and finally as the president of NCKU. Prior to the last position, he had already served as the president of Kaohsiung Junior College of Technology and was appointed as director of the Dept. of Technological and Vocational Education, MOE owing to his effective management of the said junior college. He once described himself as a “workaholic civil servant,” as he dedicated himself to promotion of technological literacy in education. In 1979, he was appointed as administrative deputy minister of MOE. In 1980, Dr. Xia was appointed as the seventh president of NCKU; he was the first alumnus to serve as president of the university. At that time, Dr. Xia stated that he felt obligated to establish a medical center owned and run by NCKU, not only because this was the goal of all former presidents (of the university), but because NCKU will easily find its way to success once I achieved the goal. His remarks showed a strong sense of calling and responsibility, as well as his love for the alma mater.
Campus Expanded, Medical Center Established, NCKU Transformed into a Top Comprehensive Universit
Former President Xia wasted no time in implementing reforms as he was actively engaged in negotiations. He successfully took back the property belonged to NCKU by addressing the issue of illegal buildings. Thereafter, nearly 20 university buildings had been built one after another. Another former president, Zheng-Yi Weng, remarked that “Dr. Han-Min Xia had done everything he could to expand campuses in order to elevate NCKU to be among the top-tier universities. His contributions toward NCKU can hardly be exceeded by anyone else.” Thanks to Dr. Xia’s efforts, NCKU owns a complete campus environment with all departments of a college being located in the same campus. This is rare for a university with many colleges not only in Taiwan but across the world, too.
Shortly after assuming the leadership position, Dr. Xia undertook the arduous and difficult mission of setting up a medical center in hopes of establishing the first ever college of medicine that is wholly designed, constructed, and managed by the university that it belongs. This also prepares NCKU, previously a college based on engineering, for a comprehensive university and then becomes one of the top 100 universities in the world.
It took eight years to complete the construction of NCKU Hospital, which is not merely deemed as an accomplishment for the university but has made it much more convenient for people in southern Taiwan to see a doctor, not to mention that the hospital was among the Fourteen Major Construction Projects that laid the cornerstone of national development over the years. Once the hospital was built, Dr. Xia urged the medical students to “be a good doctor to patients and a good minister to the king” by developing a broader perspective and taking the patients’ wellbeing into consideration, just like the way he managed the university.
Former president Jer-Ru Maa once remarked that “NCKU could be described as a pyramid that was arduously built by a great number of teachers and students as everyone put forth a little effort building this grand edifice. And President Han-Min Xia was the one who stacked many large boulders to make the miracle happen.”
Once a NCKUer, Always a NCKUer; Made Great Contributions to Society
In 1988, Dr. Han-Min Xia stepped down as president of the university and was then appointed as minister of the National Science Council (NSC) and then a national policy advisor. As pointed out by a subsequent minister of NSC, Che-Ho Wei, “Dr. Xia had successfully promoted and implemented a vast range of technology policies that altered the technology landscape in Taiwan. From drawing up the national space programs, building national laboratories, and setting up the overseas science division to facilitate industry-academia collaboration programs, Dr. Xia proved to be an insightful and prospective scientist.
Dr. Xia lived a simple and frugal life but showed compassion toward the poor and the lonely by regularly donating to charities. After retirement, he founded the National Information Infrastructure Enterprise Promotion Association with an aim of using information technology to assist in facilitating industrial development, including executing more than 30 projects consigned or subsidized by government agencies. These projects were mostly involved in prospective areas: integration of consumer electronics, e-commerce, flood hazard mitigation, remote learning, and so forth. Then he founded GCAE partly by his savings and partly by fundraising. He and his wife were both devoted to spreading Christianity between Taiwan and the United States and promoting charitable work.
As he grew old, Dr, Xia returned to Taiwan. He then sold his home in Taipei, and moved with his wife to Tainan Veterans Home in 2012. As he said laughingly, “If I was not feeling well, I would go to the hospital nearby,” it was clear that he remembered the years of setting up NCKU Hospital. Once a NCKUer, always a NCKUer.
In his final years, Dr. Xia and his wife moved to their daughter’s home in Tainan after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Occasionally former colleagues, friends, and students would visit the elderly couple, as they were both happy to live a quiet life. Dr. Xia passed away in June 2021.
Master Program of Mechanical Engineering 1962
・Served as President of NCKU from 1980 to 1988; successfully established NCKU Hospital and a medical center before he left office.
・Awarded an Honorary Doctor of Engineering by Chonnam National University in 1983.
・Served as Minister of the National Science Council (NSC) between 1988 and 1993, leaving impact on Taiwan’s technological development in the last decades.
・Served as Minister without Portfolio while acting as a convener at the Technology Advisory Group, the Office of Committee for Information Industry Development, and the Nangang Business Park Promotion Group (under the Executive Yuan) from 1993 to 1996.
・Granted the title of Professor Emeritus by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in 1996.
・Served as a national policy advisor between 1996 and 2000.
・Served as Chairperson of the National Information Infrastructure Enterprise Promotion Association between 2000 and 2005, using information technology to assist in facilitating industrial development in Taiwan.
夏漢民 / 機械工程學系碩士51級