“It was around July 1971 when I received a telegram from Professor Heinz Arndt informing me of the offer of a PhD Scholarship at ANU,” said Dr Paul Chan, founder of and now Vice- Chancellor and President of HELP (Higher Education Learning Philosophy) University in Malaysia, and co-founder of HELP International Corporation.
“I was then at McMaster University, Canada doing a course in Monetary and Mathematical Economics. It was the tail end of the Woodstock-era and during the midst of the Cultural Revolution in China.
“Kam Yoke, my wife, and I took this opportunity and hitch-hiked across UK, Europe, Lebanon all the way to India, back to Malaysia and then Canberra. It was a great experience and this changed our outlook about life and liberalism. When we reached Canberra in November 1971 it was such a quiet place compared to the heady mood of America and Europe.
“What Kam Yoke and I could never forget was the kindness and care of the ANU people. Ruth Doraesman, who worked with Professor Arndt, stocked our fridge with one week’s supply of all the necessary food and condiments.
“I had a memorable and invaluable intellectual journey at ANU. Professor Fisk was a great mentor and guided me patiently.”
Dr Chan explains that it was not all about studious research.
“Kam Yoke and I had been deeply influenced by the idealism of the West, especially with what we observed and experienced in North America and Europe. It was the time of the Black Power and Black Panther Party and Angela Davis. It was the time of student idealism and revolt in London and European campuses. And then the Vietnam War. So, we spent time protesting against the Vietnam War and supported the cause for the improvement of the Australian aborigines. We also sympathised with the ALP, then under Gough Whitlam. What a time. There was a fever in the air.”
Dr Chan recalls the early ‘70s, when Canberra was a small place. He and his wife developed their own fraternity.
“We developed a long lasting relationship and friendship with many Australians. We did many crazy things: tobogganed in the Snowy Mountains, picnicked at the Blue Mountains, rushed through the back lanes to Sydney for ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, drove to Hay Street market in Sydney at four in the morning to have yam cha and roast duck, barbecued around Lake Burley Griffin, crawled the pubs, fished for oysters and abalones in Batemans Bay, ate my daily meat pies, and demonstrated a lot about all sorts of social and political causes.”
“We shopped at Fyshwick and I could not understand why they called me ‘Mike’. I worked out they were calling me ‘mate’.
“I am extremely proud to be an ANU graduate. It has given me my future, and that of my family. My ANU education gives me not only the academic skills, but also the leadership competency to be a social entrepreneur.
With these skills, confidence and courage, Dr Chan and his wife started HELP University as a social business enterprise and dedicated our lives ‘to help people to succeed in life and to live a life of significance’.
“We do this because ANU and the Australian people have given us our future and so we now do the same for others.”