Professor forged ties with China for U

Nichol Nelson

When University President Mark Yudof stepped off a plane in Beijing last January, he was greeted by an entourage of Chinese alumni wearing maroon and gold and holding a large welcome banner.
Yudof’s visit was the result of extensive planning by David Pui, a man who emphasized the importance of University alumni in China and who will step down from his post as director of the China Center in December. “The University is as well known in China as any university in the United States,” Pui said.
The University has the largest population of Chinese students in the United States — about 1,200 — and runs exchange programs with 18 institutions in the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan.
The mission of the University’s China Center is to support these academic exchanges, network with alumni and support the Chinese student population on campus. David Pui has directed the center since 1994, and under his leadership the center has strengthened ties with alumni in China and increased its presence on campus.
Former University President Nils Hasselmo said Pui played a major role in strengthening relationships with China during his tenure as well.
“We certainly re-established contacts with alumni who had not had contact with the University since the early ’80s,” Hasselmo said.
Margaret Carlson, executive director of the University Alumni Association, recalled feeling initially skeptical about Pui’s plans to expand the University’s presence in mainland China, but she was quickly convinced.
Carlson said Pui was an impressive ambassador during their trips.
“David knew everyone, from top government officials and diplomatic leaders to just ordinary folks,” she said. “He was respected for his diplomacy and his humanity.”
Paul Quie, chair of the China Center Advisory Committee, said Pui’s excellent judgement and remarkable energy led to an increase in the visibility of the center under Pui’s direction.
Part of the center’s mission is to help Minnesota businesses strengthen ties to China. Under Pui’s leadership, the center developed a directory of University alumni in China that serve as business contacts for Minnesota companies such as Honeywell and 3M.
Dr. Joseph Ling, a former vice president for 3M, said Pui made important contributions to the private sector by connecting businesses on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean.
Pui said he is leaving his post in December to return to his position as a mechanical engineering professor and graduate student adviser.