In the sixth century B.C., Confucius infused Chinese culture with belief in humility and an unassuming manner. It was a stark contrast to the capitalist culture of post-World War II America that Shanghai native Anthony Yeh G’49 experienced as a mechanical engineering student at Syracuse University.
Decades later, the successful entrepreneur says the most important lessons he learned at SU occurred away from the books. “Before I came to Syracuse, I had no idea what the outside world looked like, and what I saw changed my outlook on life completely,” says Yeh, a University trustee emeritus.
Learning the ropes
As a student, Yeh learned the benefits of marketing—a skill not traditionally valued in Chinese culture, but necessary to thrive in the global market, he says. “Chinese are very good at manufacturing, but the culture forbids marketing,” says Yeh. “When I returned home, I knew how to market and sell a product.”
He was quickly hired to help save the struggling Tai Ping Carpets International Ltd. in Hong Kong. Using his engineering training, he created and patented a handheld electric tool that made production of customized carpets 100 times faster. Today, the carpets decorate a wide range of floors from high-traffic hotel lobbies and airport concourses to the bedrooms of kings and queens and Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre.
Paying it forward
For the past 40 years, Yeh’s success has allowed him to support international education for SU students. In addition to developing SU’s Study Abroad program center in Beijing, the scholarships Yeh created that fund travel abroad to Hong Kong and Beijing have benefited more than 120 students. “Traveling abroad really opens your eyes and changes you,” says Yeh. “The world is getting smaller and we can learn so much from each other.”
Hoi Ning Wong ’99:
A Thank You to Anthony Yeh
Dear Mr. Yeh,
My ties to Syracuse began at a young age. When I was nine years old, my parents and I moved from Hong Kong to Syracuse, where my father pursued his graduate studies—first at Syracuse University and then at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. I grew up amongst the books in Bird Library, and made friends from all over the world in our graduate student housing community, Slocum Heights. SU’s picturesque campus, with its rolling lawns, classical buildings, and dynamic student body, was my ideal vision of what college life should be like.
A few years later, we returned to Hong Kong. It was a time of tremendous economic growth in the city and new development sprinkled all over town seemingly overnight. I was fascinated by our built environment and how its design can influence the everyday lives of its citizens, and it was then that I knew I wanted to pursue an education in architecture and design.
With the help of your generosity, I was able to fulfill my ambitions of attending a university in the United States. Syracuse’s Architecture program was a rigorous and immersive experience that taught me how to think critically, develop a keen eye for details, and use design to solve problems; these are skills I very much still rely on today.
It is a true honor to have been the recipient of the Anthony Yeh Hong Kong Fund and to have represented Hong Kong in the Syracuse community. Not only do I share an alma mater with my father, my education has armed me with invaluable skills and fostered a strong work ethic that has shaped me both personally and professionally. It has enabled me to build a strong network of fellow alumni, many of whom remain my closest friends. Furthermore, your generosity continues to inspire me to pay it forward to others in need—primarily through the form of mentorship—whenever the opportunities arise.
Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for making higher education a possibility for me and for so many other students!
Hoi Ning Wong