Two Wenzhou-Kean University (WKU) leaders have been awarded the prestigious 2016 Yandang Friendship Award by the city of Wenzhou in recognition for their work at WKU, Kean University’s campus in China. The award is given to foreign experts working in Wenzhou who make outstanding contributions to the city in a variety of fields, including culture and education, science and technology, and trade and health.
Philip Connelly, executive vice chancellor of Wenzhou-Kean University, and WKU Biology Professor Toby Michelena, Ph.D., accepted the awards on Wednesday, October 19 at the Wenzhou municipal building.
Connelly was recognized as a driving force behind WKU and for working to create internship and educational opportunities for the University’s students. In his acceptance speech, Connelly recalled his arrival in Zhejiang Province 11 years ago as part of a delegation to find the best educational partners for Kean in China.
“Wenzhou immediately became the first choice. There is the natural beauty of the city, its desire to diversify its educational system, the prosperous economy, and the dynamic governmental leadership,” said Connelly. “But most important, it was the people of Wenzhou that convinced me and the rest of the delegation that Wenzhou was indeed the perfect match for Kean University and Wenzhou University to create a Sino-American world-class international university.”
Connelly also credits WKU’s success to the close working relationship between Kean University President Dawood Farahi, Ph.D., and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping, which dates to 2006 when Xi was the party secretary of Wenzhou’s Zhejiang province.
“Mr. Xi visited Kean University and an immediate friendship was created between Mr. Xi and Dr. Farahi, where they met for almost two hours discussing their visions for future educational institutions,” said Connelly. “The friendship continues to this day as they regularly exchange communications and greetings.”
In being chosen for the award, Michelena was described as a professor who is beloved by students, and someone who is kind, humble and humorous. In addition to teaching biology and environmental sciences, he works with the Wenzhou municipal government on anti-pollution measures for the city’s rivers and canals and works with groups that tutor Chinese youth learning to write and speak English.
“It is a great honor to receive this award. In reality, this award was only made possible by meeting, working and getting to know the staff here at WKU,” Michelena said. “Through these friendships, I have been able to explore Wenzhou and to become more deeply involved in the community. It is something I hope to continue and expand in the coming years.”
There have been 207 winners of the award since it was introduced in the 2003. Connelly and Michelena are among 16 recipients across 11 countries receiving the award this year.