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Luke Tang-Gyi (FCRH 53)

Class of '53 to Honor Golden Ram from Myanmar with Lifetime Achievement Award

During the Golden Rams dinner on Friday, May 30, the Class of 1953 will honor Luke Tang-Gyi (FCRH '53) with a lifetime achievement award for his work as a civil engineer and a leader in the Catholic community in Myanmar, his native country.

Tang-Gyi first left Myanmar, then known as Burma, and arrived at Rose Hill in 1949 courtesy of a scholarship from the Columban Fathers. After earning his bachelor's degree in economics, he studied engineering at the University of Detroit and returned home, where he embarked on a long career as a public servant and civil engineer.

For more than four decades, Tang-Gyi has helped build a network of roads in the
Luke Tang-Gyi in the 1953 Maroon
Kachin State, the rugged and sparsely populated northern part of Myanmar that shares borders with India and China. Incidentally, Tang-Gyi's father, an officer in the British Army, was also an important road builder. During World War II,he was captured by Japanese forces, but he escaped-avoiding the infamous prison camp depicted in the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai-and went on to help American forces build the Ledo Road after the Japanese had cut off the main supply route, the Burma Road. Although both roads have since lost their former importance, the British officer's son has been responsible for building most of the key roads in northern Myanmar today. Throughout his career, Tang-Gyi has also been responsible for restoring many of the country's cultural monuments, including the centuries-old pagodas and temples in Bagan, the historic "city of four million pagodas" that was sacked by Kublai Khan in 1287 and never rebuilt.

Despite his significant engineering accomplishments, however, it was Tang-Gyi's efforts on behalf of the Catholic community in the Kachin State that especially inspired his classmates to honor him at their Golden Jubilee this year.

Two years ago, Jerry Creedon (FCRH '53) traveled to Myanmar and spent a week getting reacquainted with his former classmate. Creedon was impressed by the mark Tang-Gyi has left on the country's roads and pagodas, but he was even more affected by his fellow alumnus' commitment to the development of Catholic education in Myanmar, a politically turbulent country that has been ruled by military junta since 1962.

Classmates Luke Tang-Gyi (left) and Jerry Creedon reunited in Myitkyina, Myanmar in 2001.

Although Tang-Gyi is now retired, he still serves as a consultant on road construction projects and, according to Creedon, spends much of his time working closely with Rev. Paul Grawng, bishop of Myitkyina, the capital of the Kachin State, to improve the quality of Catholic education there.
"More significant than his work career has been Luke's leadership and contribution to improving morale and standards in his Catholic community in the Kachin state," said Creedon. "[During my visit] I learned that the Catholic Church and, in particular, its schools in Myanmar are in dire straits. Since the 1960s, when the military took control of the government, no foreign Catholic missionaries have been allowed entry, some Catholic schools have been taken over and nationalized, and many priests' residences, convents and church buildings have been transferred to government control."

According to Creedon, Tang-Gyi fondly recalls his days at Rose Hill-he attended his class' 40th reunion 10 years ago, he still has a well-worn copy of the 1953 Maroon and, although his travel plans are not yet confirmed, he is hoping to reunite with his fellow alumni at Jubilee this year.


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