Founding Dean of UBC School of Dentistry: So-Wah Leung

Carmen Cheng Biography

Founding Dean of UBC School of Dentistry: So Wah Leung (1918-1989)

“Clearly the second generation of the Leungs has endured hardship and overcome many obstacles to become contributing citizens in Canada.”
Sophia Leung

So Wah Leung was the youngest son of Revd. Chuk Ping Leung, borned in Jiangmen, China, in 1918. He arrived at Edmonton, Canada at age 8 and began his English education. Leung grew up in Canada during a time of severe racial prejudice against the Chinese people but his modest and gentle nature, qualities inherited from his mother, led him to “tolerate the racial insults and cultural rejections as insignificant childish games.” Despite difficult circumstances, he continued to excel in his studies. He inherited from his parents a hard-working lifestyle. He said with a sense of humour, “I was too busy to get into any mischief in those days.”

After graduating from high school, he took two years of Science at University of British Columbia, then transferred to the Faculty of Dentistry at McGill University in 1939. Leung graduated with a combined degree in Science and Doctor of Dental Science with the highest standing in the class of 1943, making him the recipient of the Gold Medal Award. Due to discrimination against Chinese, Leung was not able to practice his dental profession in Canada. He left Canada to pursue advanced education at the University of Rochester, New York, receiving a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physiology, and established his career as an internationally known scientist and dentist.

He was first appointed as the Associate Professor in Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dentistry and within two years, at the young age of 33, he was promoted to Full Professor and Chairman of the Department. He published extensively and became an internationally known scholar. Not only was Dr. Leung a world renowned scholar, he was twice nominated by his students as the “Best Teacher” of the year. Leung was invited to join the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1961 to teach in both the School of Dentistry and School of Medicine.

Leung returned to Canada in 1962 with an invitation from the University of British Columbia to establish a new Faculty of Dentistry and served as its first Dean. This move was so ground breaking that “the Vancouver Sun expressed editorially wonderment and congratulations that the University had chosen a Canadian of Chinese ancestry for such a high administrative office.” Under Leung’s leadership, the School of Dentistry at UBC received high regard from the Review of Dental Research in Canada.

In addition to Leung’s academic achievements, he was well remembered by the community for his sacrificial service. Despite the heavy demands of his educational and administrative duties, he generously gave his time to serve charitable organizations. The dual values of Christian ethics and Chinese culture nurtured in Dr. Leung a strong sense of responsibility to help improve the world he lived. Social justice and racial harmony were two prime values in his life. He received many awards in recognition of his community service and scholarship.

Leung was not only an accomplished scholar, popular teacher and outstanding citizen, he was also a loving husband and father. In memory of him, his son shared many incidents of how his father set aside father and son time in spite of his demanding schedule. Like his father, Leung instilled in his son virtues of honesty, diligence, determination, perseverance and self-giving. Leung loved his wife deeply. His son recalled an incident during his stroke recovery at the hospital. Though the stroke affected his speech and mobility, he asked his private nurse to buy a basket of flowers for his wife on Mother’s Day and with tremendous effort, he signed his name on the card (at that point, he was using a special made magnetic alphabet to communicate with friends and family).

As Mrs. Sophia Leung remarked, Dr. Leung was convinced that Christian faith must be lived out beyond the four walls of the church and bring witness to our neighbours, our workplace, our society, and our world. He is a public Christian in the truest sense.

Reference Sources:

Oral History with Mrs. Sophia Leung.

S. Wah Leung: Celebration of a Splendid Life. Vancouver, BC: Dr. S. Wah Leung Endowment Fund, the University of British Columbia Faculty of Dentistry, 1992.

梁甦華 (1918-1989) :卑詩大學牙科學院的始創院長 [中譯文]


梁甦華是梁祝平牧師的幼子,一九一八年生於江門市。甦華八歲時到加拿大愛民頓開始接受英語教育。甦華在加拿大長大的期間,華人受到極大的歧視,但他承傳了母親謙和和溫柔的品性,使他能忍受他人所作出種族侮辱和文化排擠的幼稚行為。環境雖艱苦,他的學業成績卻是出類拔萃。他同時承傳了父母那種堅韌的工作操守。他自嘲地笑著回答:「我根本忙得沒有時間去搗亂生事。」(Celebration of a Splendid Life, 第五、九頁)