Yenching Academy of Peking University Holds First Graduation Ceremony


Yenching Academy of Peking University held its first Graduation Ceremony July 4, 2017, celebrating its 2015 Cohort. Dean Yuan Ming, Associate Dean John Holden, Professor Lu Yang, faculty from various departments of Peking University, and graduates’ family members and friends attended the ceremony.  

Dean Holden hosted the event. He expressed deep gratitude to all the faculty members who have helped Yenching scholars inside and outside the classroom; the family members and guests who supported the students; and the staff members whose hard work made everything possible.


Dean Yuan Ming offered three “congratulations” in her address. The first was for the graduating scholars. They all made this journey together, and it was not always easy. The second “congratulations” was for the Academy’s faculty. Yuan expressed her gratitude to the professors who have taught classes, supervised theses, advised students, and shared their knowledge, wisdom and patience with Yenching scholars. The third “congratulations” was for the staff members who worked to establish the Academy and make it what it is today. Dean Yuan spoke in particular of the “father’s love” that Assoc. Dean Holden shares with the scholars. Holden not only interviewed and led each of the scholars to Beijing, but also formed relationships with them and witnessed their growth at the Academy.


Representing the faculty, Professor Lu Yang also expressed gratitude for Dean Holden’s contributions. He went on to state that the Scholars’ day-to-day life at the Academy—classes, questions, discussions, papers, and assignments—have served as the best evidence of Yenching Academy’s success. Prof. Lu quoted Lu Xun’s famous phrase and called the first cohort “the first crab-eaters” (第一个吃螃蟹的人). Through this admirable courage, these first graduates will go on to make substantial contributions in the future.


Prof. Lu then passed the microphone to 2015 Cohort Scholar Cody Abbey (U.S.A.), who served as the first President of Yenching Academy’s Graduate Student Union and was voted 2016 Peking University Man of the Year. Cody spoke of his Yenching experience from the moment he first learned about the program on Princeton’s campus to the present. Cody said that through engagement in activities like the Yenching Global Symposium and Yenching Social Innovation Forum, as well as everyday life on campus, he has gained a deeper understanding of China from the people around him. He expressed optimism that the relationships formed will continue to bear fruit in the future. 

“As the first graduating class, I think we have a responsibility to set an example for future cohorts by deciding to keep dreaming for what could be; by continuing to collaborate; and by always keeping YCA, PKU, and China in our minds and in our hearts,” Cody said. “I wish you all sincere congratulations, but I won’t say goodbye. Because I hope and believe that this isn’t simply the end of our Yenching Academy experience. It is only the beginning.”


Finally, Mr. Zhang Wenxian, father of scholar Zhang Zekun (Mainland China), represented the graduates’ parents. Mr. Zhang remarked that over these two years, his daughter has become more mature, independent, and responsible. Yenching Academy’s multicultural environment has given her opportunities to learn and expand her mind. Mr. Zhang expressed his best wishes to all the students and encouraged them to use what they have learned in the Academy to live a wise and happy life.


As Dean Yuan presented diplomas and “turned that tassels” on each scholar’s cap, tears, cheers and laughter filled the auditorium. The inaugural cohort of Yenching scholars has officially graduated. Congratulations, Yenching graduates!