Helen and Seng Ooi ‘60

Helen and Seng Ooi ‘60 Build the Lives of Students Through a Future Gift

Helen and Seng Ooi

In 1956, Southwestern University admission officials had given up on an international student because he was two weeks late for the beginning of the fall semester.  Little did they know, it would take the young man from Malaysia with only two suitcases in hand, six weeks to travel across the Pacific Ocean from Singapore to the Port of New Orleans and ultimately the steps of the Cullen Administration building.

Just weeks before, Southwestern University President William C. Finch, was looking to increase the number of international students on campus.  He reached out to Rev. Theodore Runyan, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Penang, Malaysia, and asked if there were any pupils from the Methodist Boys' School who might embrace the opportunity to come to the United States and Georgetown, Texas. Rev. Runyan chose Seng Ooi.

As Seng Ooi, Class of 1960, recalls his journey over 60 years ago, he remembers feeling blessed. He immediately felt accepted by the Southwestern student body and appreciated the "superior academic preparations and grounding in Christian principles."  Ooi laughs sharing how Dr. Elizabeth Beaver guided him through English 101. "Little did she know I already could read and write English, I just needed to become comfortable with how English was spoken in Texas."  His favorite faculty members were Dr. Girvin, Dr. Switzer and Dr. Lenz.  Seng is most grateful for his relationship with Mrs. Lillian Peterson, "who opened her home to me and other foreign students during weekends and holidays providing us all with a home away from home."

As a biology and premed major he excelled in academics and post-graduation attended The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for medical school.  His career was devoted to plastic and reconstructive surgery.

In the early 1980s, Seng introduced his wife, Helen, and sons to campus when he attended Homecoming for the first time. He loved showing them his Mood Hall dorm room, the Ad building and the exquisite campus grounds.  Seng's eldest son Michael followed in his father's footsteps and graduated from Southwestern in 1998.

Seng and his wife began supporting Southwestern in 1979 with annual charitable gifts as a form of "payback" for the scholarships he received from the Methodist Church and the Brown family.  They live their lives with an attitude of gratitude and compassion for others. Seng says, "I want to help students receive a great education that prepares them to contribute to and sustain America's greatness."  This philosophy ultimately motivated the couple to also establish a charitable gift annuity that provided an immediate tax deduction while allowing them to receive fixed annuity payments for their lifetimes and support the mission of Southwestern.  Furthermore, the couple joined the 1840 Society which recognizes individuals who have made future plans for the University through their will or other arrangement.

Thankful for his Southwestern experience, Seng Ooi finds giving makes him feel "fulfilled". "We use the life we built to help build the life of a student."

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