An engineer who worked as part of the original design team on the Tyne-Wear Metro system and is now one of Hong Kong’s most experienced engineers, has been honoured by Sunderland University which set his career on track more than 30 years ago.
Leo Kwok Kee Leung has received an Honorary Doctorate of Technology from the University of Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this week, during the summer graduation ceremonies, where thousands of students were also receiving their degrees from Chancellor Steve Cram.
Leo has worked on transport systems, bridges, tunnels, dams and other structures which have brought huge benefits in Europe - including the Tyne-Wear Metro – and in Africa and South East Asia, such as the Mass Rapid Transit System in Singapore and water supply schemes in Kenya and Libya. He was Executive Director of Hopewell Highway Infrastructure Limited, in charge of major projects in China and in 2009, he was promoted to become Executive Director of its parent company Hopewell Holdings Limited.
Leo is also no stranger to the Sunderland campus and City having studied Civil Engineering here from 1979, graduating in 1983 with First Class Honours.
He was an outstanding student and picked up the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Prize.
As part of his course he worked with the team designing the overhead power line system for the Metro, to ensure the correct position and operation of equipment along the track and especially through tunnels.
“Of course I always encourage any student to come to Sunderland, wherever I am in the world, I have never lost my links and it will always have a special place in my heart.”Leo Kwok Kee Leung
Arriving back in Sunderland this week to receive his Honorary Doctorate with his family looking on, Leo said: “It’s a huge privilege to receive this honour from the university where I have so many wonderful memories.
“The emotion of being back in Sunderland is overwhelming; it’s 33 years since I graduated here and it feels like only yesterday I was carrying bags of food back from the local supermarket to my bedsit in Argyle Square.
“I even managed to pop to the place where I used to live to see what it looks like; it’s now an apartment but hasn’t changed a bit from the outside.”
He added: “I literally launched my career in Sunderland; I knew nothing about the city or Polytechnic, as it was then, other than it was by the sea.
“Having lived by the coast in Hong Kong, it was my first choice.
“I found it a relaxing and inspiring place and made lifelong friends, both in my class and in the local community, who I still keep in touch with to this day.”
Sunderland was a key stage in Leo’s life, as he said it allowed him to open up new avenues in his academic research, knowledge, skills, work and other aspects of development which have benefited him in his career.
After his success on Wearside, Leo was offered the chance to do a PhD here, but he chose to go directly into industry. Later in his career he gained an MSc with Distinction at Imperial College, London in Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics, and also achieved top-level Registered Structural Engineer status for his expert work in China.
Leo joined Hopewell in 1993 to take charge of engineering, design and construction.
During his time, the company has completed several major road systems, including the 123km Guangzhou-Shenzhen Superhighway and power stations and has successfully completed the astonishing Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge/Tunnel link.
This was the concept of Hopewell’s Group Chairman, Sir Gordon Wu, a 42 km six-lane structure across the Pearl River Estuary.
It combines a series of bridges and artificial islands to take a tunnel under the main shipping channel to connect three strategically important commercial and residential centres, and is due for completion over the next couple of years.
Leo is now one of Hong Kong’s most experienced engineers, who has published many technical and non-technical papers, given talks and seminars, and plays a leading role in professional bodies.
He has also had input into the government of Hong Kong, including its Regional Strategic Planning, and he was the choice of the engineering sub-sector to represent his industry on the committee to elect the Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region in 2012.
Offering his advice to the next generation of engineers, Leo said: “You need to learn how to learn continually, try to expand your horizons and improve your own self in life, and above all always be positive. “Try to stand out from the crowd and devise a product or provide a service that people at large would need or physically desire.”
He added: “Of course I always encourage any student to come to Sunderland, wherever I am in the world, I have never lost my links and it will always have a special place in my heart.
“To see so many changes and developments in this city after 33 years is fantastic, and long may it continue.”