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Keeping the Washington SyCip legacy alive in Asia’s golden era



People have been telling me how it has been nothing short of a phenomenon. Since his passing on October 7, 2017, we have seen an outpouring of affection toward Washington SyCip akin to that of the passing of a head of state.

Not only have the newspapers been covered with eulogies of Mr. SyCip, social media has also been peppered with personal photos taken with the Filipino visionary and philanthropist, whom we call founder and chairman emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

What made the greatest impact on me personally, however, was the way the AIM community and its friends approached me to offer their condolences and trade reminiscences about the man who, for most of his 96 years on this earth, was an unstoppable champion of education.

As the community mourns its loss, I have found myself feeling more determined about how we should keep his legacy alive forever. Of course, our flagship W. SyCip Graduate School of Business already bears his name but, as the days go by, it has become clearer how Mr. SyCip left such an indelible imprint on so many lives that the AIM community wants to do more.

Hence, the Washington SyCip Memorial Fund is born. Let me just state that this tribute was a hundred percent led by the community; we merely responded. As I write this, less than two weeks after our founder’s passing, we have already received the lead gift of $5 million (or almost P260 million).

The philanthropist behind the fund wants to honor Mr SyCip’s advocacy of using education as a means to rise out of poverty. The generosity of our founder’s fellow philanthropist moves me deeply.

As I witnessed at AIM’s recent general assembly, where we observed a minute of silence to pay our respects, so did news of the fund profoundly affect our faculty and staff. We are, indeed, still mourning Mr. SyCip’s passing, but such acts of kindness help the AIM community fix its eyes on the Institute’s mission.

AIM is committed to Asian business, and we want to foster in Mr. SyCip’s young scholars the passion for the region and the country AIM students are known for — to make sure these students gain a good grasp of how the economy, culture, society, and government intersect with their business, their personal passion.

Some call this Asian literacy, and it is an essential skill for any person who wishes to remain relevant in what is shaping up to be the region’s new golden era. We expect nothing less of any student who bears our founder’s name through the Washington SyCip Memorial Fund.

Mr. SyCip was also an active supporter of initiatives that sought to reverse brain drain and bring to the Philippines the world’s top minds honed overseas. We are likewise committed to continually bringing world-class faculty to AIM, who can bridge academic rigor with practitioner-based teaching, and student-centered learning.

AIM is very fortunate that, as a graduate educational institute of international character, we are not constrained as others are in the country (or even the region) in terms of diversity of student body and faculty. As a Korean-born, US-educated British citizen, I cannot hold a deanship elsewhere in this country.

Be that as it may, AIM’s approach to management education is uniquely different: We are not just some school that happens to be located in Asia, teaching a Western curriculum. Sadly, this happens all too frequently in the region. At AIM, we want to teach our students how they can thrive in Asia and how to contribute to and partake of its golden era.

We are, however, great believers in the value of diversity and the global mindset. So we not only actively recruit international faculty but also we seek out overseas Filipino scholars who want to share their global perspectives to add value to the Philippines and its citizens’ quality of life.

As a lifelong learner and educator, I see the role of any business school as threefold: generating knowledge, disseminating knowledge, and certifying knowledge. A business school that fails to deliver in all three areas is nothing but an educational retailer. (Pardon me for not mincing words, but this is something I feel very strongly about.)

This is the reason why AIM continues to engage in cutting-edge research using rigorous scientific methods and has, just this month, established the country’s first corporate data science lab, which will house the second most powerful and sophisticated supercomputing facility in Southeast Asia.

As we prepare activities to mark the 50th year since Washington SyCip first led the group whose vision gave birth to the institute in 1968, we are very mindful of our role as an Asian management institute. We will enter AIM’s golden year and are even more energized because it will happen during Asia’s golden era!

So why not visit AIM soon? You are all welcome to celebrate with us and, if you wish to join the AIM community in continuing Mr. SyCip’s legacy, reach out to us via the AIM-Scientific Research Foundation; e-mail Maitta Zapanta (MZapanta@AIM.EDU) or call +63 2 892-4011 ext. 1842.

Dr. Jikyeong Kang is President and Dean of the Asian Institute of Management. For more information, e-mail JKangMT@AIM.edu or visit AIM.edu.

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