U.S. Alumni Raise Funds, Image of Chinese University

Fundraising is an important part of the success of any college or university — and not just in the United States. China's oldest and most prestigious university, Peking University in Beijing, is turning to its alumni abroad for help with raising not just money, but also its international profile.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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For colleges and universities, the giving season is all year 'round. As graduates know all too well, fund-raising is just as much a part of post-college life as reunions and homecoming. Some schools are better at raising money than others. It helps to have energetic and affluent alumni. Well, you might be surprised to learn about one school that's flush with both and has a group of alumni as active as any. NPR's Andrea Hsu reports.

ANDREA HSU reporting:

There was a registration table.

(Soundbite of registration activity)

HSU: The hanging of the school banner.

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign languages spoken)

HSU: And the group photo.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

HSU: All for the second nationwide conference for Peking University alumni in the United States.

(Soundbite of registration activity)

HSU: About 70 graduates of China's oldest and most prestigious university attended the gathering in Rockville, Maryland. They were representing thousands of alumni from across the US.

Ms. LIU HONGXIA (Peking University Alumni Association): North California, South California, New York, New England, Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan--it's just amazing.

HSU: Liu Hongxia is president of the Washington, DC, chapter of the Peking University Alumni Association.

Ms. LIU: The purpose of the conference is to promote the university in the United States, and then connect the alumni and friends and a family together so they can become one voice. Some Americans--once they know our university--they would refer it as the Harvard of China.

HSU: At its centennial celebration in 1998, the university set a goal of becoming a world-class university, an academic powerhouse in 15 to 20 years' time. Appeals went out to alumni living abroad. The school's vice president, Hai Ren(ph), says they are especially well-positioned to help the cause.

Mr. HAI REN (Peking University): Many of our alumni come to the United States to study and receive a PhD so they can either come back to the university or they can promoting--it's change. And also they can help us even in the financial aid.

(Soundbite of event activity)

HSU: Sujuan Ba, class of '84, will receive a distinguished alumni award today. She's science director of the National Foundation for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Maryland. Earlier this year, she helped organize a summit in Beijing on cancer research that brought together scientists from the US, the UK and China.

Ms. SUJUAN BA (National Foundation for Cancer Research): Lot of people like me who are working in United States who have a career here can now be established in what we do. When we have opportunities to help China to get into the mainstream and expand the exchange, we'll do that.

HSU: After some catching up, the group got down to business. Vice President Hai Ren, who flew in from Beijing specially for the conference, spoke at length before a PowerPoint presentation.

Mr. HAI: (Foreign language spoken)

HSU: He brought news of the latest developments on campus...

Mr. HAI: (Foreign language spoken)

HSU: ...and made a fund-raising pitch that would sound familiar to graduates of any American school. `Help build the new gym, this one not for Division I basketball or volleyball but for the ping-pong match that the school will host during the 2008 Olympics.

(Soundbite of applause)

HSU: The recurring theme of the conference was this: For Peking University to gain international recognition, much work still has to be done. Liu Hongxia of the DC chapter says outside of Asia her school remains relatively unknown.

Ms. LIU: And that effect how our alumni friends who are leaving and studying in the United States--how affect their employment and their lives and their work, so we want to make sure our name is a strong and recognized name, not only in the academic circle but also in the corporate America.

HSU: And there's a good chance they'll succeed. There are currently some 40,000 alumni of Peking University in North America. It's a reminder of just how vast the country China is and how extensive its reach might be one day. Andrea Hsu, NPR News, Washington.

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