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Eternal Memory and Everlasting Gift: In memory of Prof. Mitchell M. Tseng

Mitchell M. Tseng's students and Du Xuehong

Back from morning jogging, I glanced at my phone messages. It was from Janet: "Sister, our professor passed away, did you know that?" No! I texted you immediately: "You are still around, right? Anxious for your reply!" Right away another message to Mrs. Tseng, Jennifer: "Two minutes ago I heard that Prof. Tseng passed away. Would you please confirm with me that it was not true at all!" Can’t wait further, I dialed your cell in Taiwan. "Hello!", replied by a female voice, my heart was beating fast, it was Jennifer. She said “I just saw your message. It's true!" – these words I never want to hear about!

Standing in front of your bier, we could hardly believe that you have left us and gone to another world. You were looking at us from your portrait over the bier. You looked a little thin, but brimmed over with a bosom smile as always. You were slightly tilting your head and looking over to the far sky. No! You did not pass away! It was impossible and never! Tears blurred our eyes; but our mind kept replaying clearly the posts and episodes of your mentoring and influencing us since you became our professor – as precious as gems.

When the sad news reached the WeChat group of your past students, all were shocked and could not help recollecting tons of fond memories with you: you took us on a boat to catch squid, went to Hong Kong harbor eating seafood, hiking in Lung Ha Wan in Clear Water Bay, tasting desserts in Saigon, and after finishing group meetings at midnight, you took us for a night snack in Kowloon Town… When we were visiting Stanford, one day after class, you asked us, “First time in America, right? I'll show you around San Francisco”. Then you drove us from Palo Alto all the way north to San Francisco. When arrived at SF, it was already evening. You treated us to dinner with authentic western food, and then showed us around the central business district and the Fisherman's Wharf, stopped by the Art Gallery and watched performances of street artists, until the midnight…Your enthusiasm for life has deeply affected your students.

1996.11.22 Left HKUST pier for fishing in the Saigon bay

1999.2.28 Hiking in LungHaWan in Clear Water Bay

1996.1.25 Napa Valley

Roger and Wang Wei:Prof. Tseng took nine of us to Stanford University for the inaugural global manufacturing course, which was the first time of traveling to USA for many of us. At the weekend, Prof. Tseng took us to a winery in Napa Valley, which was indeed the first time we tasted wine ever. After treating us to the Western-style dinner, Prof. Tseng took us to a famous ice cream shop for dessert, letting us experience the American food culture.

Everyone knew that you were married to a well-educated, beautiful, and virtuous wife, and two elegant, talented daughters. Whenever others praised your happy family, you always smiled with satisfaction and nodded your head, saying “Alright, you can”. Sometimes, you shared your family stories with us. We came to know that, after you got married, Jennifer went to the United States with you. Because you were busy at work and cared about her for being bored at home alone, you bought her a piano. Jennifer enjoyed playing piano at home, but later you worried that the piano sound might disturb neighbors, you decided to move house. When your kids were very young, you had planed a trip to Hawaii for them in the summer, but you were too busy with job obligations and had to postpone the trip several times. Until close to end of the summer, one morning, you said to Sophie and Angie: “Let’s go traveling”. Playing Hawaiian music in the recorder, you drove far to the suburb. After back home by dusk, little sisters already fell into sleep. You woke them up and loudly announced: "We are back!" Sophie and Angie were so happy that they thought they just came back from Hawii. Years later, when you shared the story, you could not help laughing smugly for your “tricks”, whilst revealing that you felt in debt to your family due to your dedication to work. We did perceive the deep affection of a successful husband and father to the family. You were the role model for many of your students after we had our own families and children. You also extended your love of the family to the families of your students. At the parties at your home, you always chatted with the spouses of your students, shared your family stories, and enjoyed lots of joy and noises with the younger generations. Our children all knew and loved their “Prof. Grandpa”, while enjoying the exquisite sweets and meals prepared by their Mom Jennifer. Even now my daughters still retained the LEGO toys you gave to them.

As your students, we benefited the most from your mentoring and professional training. For every presentation in group meetings, conference papers, and journal articles, you always encouraged us to think innovatively, gave insightful guidance, and taught us how to articulate research systematically. You were good at empowering the students to strive for another height and cultivating students to be visionary. You created numerous opportunities for your students to learn and grow by sharing your visions and resources in academia and industry. You supported many students for oversea exchange at Stanford in the US, Eindhoven in the Netherlands, TU Munich in Germany, and NTU in Singapore. You provided tremendous financial resources to support students to attend international conferences and collaborate for leadership exposure in professional communities. You always showed us your great passion for the professional career. You inspired us that, when people live for a lifetime, they must "make some difference to the world". You said so, and you did the same. You did exemplify that you not only changed the world you worked for, but also changed the world of your students. You opened the door to the world for them!

1997.11.13 San Elijo Beach Park in California, Roger: When Prof. Tseng took me to attend a conference held in San Diego, he drove me around in his car all the way from Los Angels. He deliberately took the Coast Highway 101 in order to let me see the scenic beaches in Southern California. Years later, when I took my student for a conference in San Diego, I intentionally drove along the same route and stopped by the same beach park for my student. Later on, my student did the same thing for his student (Prof. Tseng’s grandstudent) as well. Prof. Tseng’s concern for others and the way of caring others has been passed down from generation to generation.

One profound memory we had as your students was that we did not have a chance to enjoy any privilege or take any shortcut even though you were the department chair. The most common norm you taught us and asked us to abide by was to avoid any conflict of interests. Sometimes we are not convinced and argued with you, but you patiently explained and enlightened us to understand professionalism and to perform objectively with fairness and selflessness. In the daily life, you had demonstrated us the most positive words and deeds, let us realize the truth of doing things and conduct, inspired us to educate students by empowering people, and further made us realize how to cultivate our own children to develop good characters and prepare for their own lives. As a great educator, your noble character and integrity had influenced the lives of students and further affected younger generations.

1997.11.26 HKUST: After the lab seminar, Prof. Tseng treated the faculty colleagues and students to lunch in the Ground Floor Restaurant, to celebrate for Lei Ming who successfully finished his postdoc and was going to start a new job in Canada.

In the Spring Festival of 2015, I took my children to greet you for the New Year and updated you my progress in the past year. You said to me: “I am very proud of you”. You also said: “Du Xuehong, I'm glad you come to see me when things go well. There are ups and downs in life. I hope you can also come to see me and talk about it when things go wrong. Maybe I can help you”. More than a year later, I met the darkest part of my career. When you knew it, you asked to meet me, listen to me and help me analyze it. You asked me to deal with it rationally and not to waste my energy and time unnecessarily. You said: “If there was no darkness, how could we see the light”? It was your wise light that illuminated my way out of adversity and lights up my way forward with perseverance!

The ancient "Shi Shuo" has a saying: “Teachers are supposed to preach, teach and dispel doubts.”

In terms of knowledge, vision, ambition, conduct, professionalism, persistence,..., you had been tirelessly teaching your students in all dimensions to shape their careers and future lives.

In 2007, my husband and I went to greet you for the Lunar New Year Eve. When we met you at the entrance, you looked haggard and a lot thinner. It turned out that you just had a major surgery. Since that moment, we had been having fearful worry about your health. On your 60th birthday, more than 30 of your students and friends gathered in your house, heartily wishing you to get rid of the haze and would healthily live for another sixty years. In the following decade, we were busy with our work and family. And at the same time, you moved to Feng Chia University to pursue your new venture. During this period, we did not visit and meet you very often. Time flied to July 2017. You were looking for industrial partnerships to provide intern opportunities to Feng Chia students. I suggested you pay a visit to Nanhai, Foshan, there many leading manufacturing companies were located. You said: “Terrific! Let’s have Roger, Wang Wei, Ma Qinhai and Wang Yue go there together”. Since it would be close to your 70th birthday soon, I suggested to arrange your birthday celebration and company visit together. In August, more than 30 of your past students flew back to Hong Kong from all over the world to celebrate your 70th birthday. You looked spirited and were happy to chat with us all the time. We presented our best wish to you in a couplet of “learning morality and virtue from teachers, benevolent person lives a long life and healthy”. Our admiration and blessing to you were vividly revealed on the couplet.

The next morning we set off from Hong Kong to Foshan. Within two days, we visited five famous local companies, including WAYES who successfully implemented mass customization in the furniture manufacturing practice, JMA Aluminum whose products were used by almost all skyscrapers higher than 300 meters around the world, and Mona Lisa Tiles who perfectly embedded art in construction materials. Wherever you went, you were warmly received. With many activities for plant visits, discussions, and logistics with a tight schedule, we were worried that might make you tired, but you were always in fine fettle. Whenever in the context of the manufacturing sector that you had devoted to your life, you seemed to have come to the position just like a warrior in the arena.

2017.8.5 Hong Kong: Prof. Tseng’s 70th birthday party. We presented Prof. Tseng our best wish in a couplet of “learning morality and virtue from teachers, benevolent person lives a long life and healthy.”

2017.8.5 Hong Kong: more than 30 past students flew back to Hong Kong from all over the world to celebrate Prof. Tseng’s 70th birthday.

2019.08.07 Foshan: Prof. Tseng took us (Roger, Wang Wei, Du Xuehong and Ma Qinhai) to visit Mona Lisa Tiles Corporation

On March 17, 2019, I flew to Taichung to see you. When walking close to your house, I saw you in a goose-yellow sweater and creamy trousers from a distance. I quickly got out of car to greet you: “You should have stayed at home and I could find the location”. You said, “Hey, I guessed it’s almost time you arrive and so I came out”. You looked kind of thinner, but I perceived you were very happy. You made me coffee and after that, you took me to visit your office in Feng Chia campus, and then went to the historical Miyahara Ophthalmology building to taste Taiwanese food, bought books in the Eslite bookstore, walked through the central park, and appreciated the artworks of local artists in National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. Along the way, you talked about some interesting events in the past, the history about Feng Chia, and your investment in new technologies… Who said you were a patient? You were more optimistic and energetic than healthy people. At dinner, I noticed that you sometimes scratched your neck. You told me that the side effect of medication was itchy skin. You also said that you had suffered three major types of cancer. You followed the doctor's advice and trusted the effectiveness of the medication had been verified. Looking at the scratching marks on your neck by fingernails, I realized for the first time that the ruthless disease was so harmful to your body and the kind pain you had been enduring, and I could not help tearing. Noticing my emotion, you smiled and said: “At a certain age, if no one disease, there is another a disease. You got to live with it”. You seemed to have a runny nose a little. I had thought you needed to keep warm because the weather was getting cold in the evening, so I urged you to go back home. Later, I got to know from Jennifer that it was caused by inflammation of the nasal cavity due to decreased immunity from your long-term medication. After dinner, I went back to your house to pick up my bags. I held your hand tightly and then I left. But I didn’t expect this farewell became forever!

2019.3.17 Taichung: Prof. Tseng treated Du Xuehong to dinner at the famous Taiwanese restaurant in the historical Miyahara Ophthalmology building.

2019.07.06-07 Taichung, Roger: I spent two days together with Prof. Tseng. He treated me at the Taiwanese restaurant in the historical Miyahara Ophthalmology building. We strolled down the downtown, passed by the industrial district, and walked in the central park while recollecting Prof. Tseng’s childhood stories there. Prof. Tseng narrated his endeavor and the amazing international exchange programs at ISTM. He portrayed the historical evolution of Feng Chia and shared with me his insights into AI and advanced manufacturing systems. We discussed about future opportunities for Feng Cha and GT collaboration and even planned a joint paper for CIRP General Assembly next year…Everything is still so alive, but it was too sudden!

2019.03 Taichung:

Lin Fuhua visited Prof. Tseng at Feng Chia.

After you passed away, a classmate texted in the WeChat group, “He was so optimistic, always smiling,  we believed that he would live forever!” For thirteen years, you were accompanied by the cancer devil. Apart from being thin and having gray and sparse hair, we could hardly tell any difference from you in the past. You always had a signature smile on your face, and even treated yourself as a young man. I knew you did not mean to cover up, but you were used to showing people with a smile. You calmly "danced with the illness.” One day we would grow old and suffer from diseases. Your optimism and tenacity in facing diseases would teach us to prepare what we should do in case of that!

Walking on the campus of Feng Chia, you asked me, “Du Xuehong, how many years have you been my student?” I said, “Twenty three years.” You said, “Twenty three years? Time flies. It is a big part of our lives”. Yes, it was! In the past twenty-three years, you had given so much to your students. Your enthusiasm for life, deep love for the family, omnipresent cultivation of the students, optimism and tenacity for the disease, caring people, commitment, being rigorous and innovative for the profession, while retaining the nature, peace, purity, courage, wisdom and spirit, are all your everlasting gifts to us. Your voice, appearance and smile are the eternal memory in our mind to cherish forever!

Alas! Tears blurred our eyes and we couldn't help ourselves. May our dear Prof. Tseng rest in another world always healthy, without disease, and always smiling, without pain. Our Professor, rest in peace…

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