For Albert Ip, BSAMCS ’73, coming to Washington University in St. Louis from Macau, China, for his undergraduate studies in applied mathematics and computer science was a life-changing experience that launched a distinguished career in international banking and hospitality investing. Now, with multiple appointments at universities in Hong Kong, the former WashU trustee (2017–21) is working to burnish Washington University’s brand in Hong Kong so more students there apply and benefit as he has.
While WashU ranks ahead of many Ivy League schools, students from Hong Kong often elect to attend those East Coast universities when given a chance, Ip says. “I think it is a matter of name recognition, so I’d like to help build Washington University’s brand in Hong Kong.”
To that end, Ip, as an adjunct professor, has established collaborations between WashU and top universities in Hong Kong and Macau, trying to expose more students to WashU and thus raise its profile. The Chinese University of Hong Kong and University of Macau, for example, offer dual MS degrees with Olin Business School. At Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), its engineering school signed a collaboration agreement with McKelvey School of Engineering in 2020. And Ip also connected the University of Hong Kong’s top-flight medical school with WashU.
Not that Ip has anything against the Ivy Leagues: He earned MS degrees from Cornell and Carnegie Mellon universities. He contends the smaller size and faculty accessibility at WashU, though, can pay students big dividends. The willingness of “faculty members to counsel students, especially international students, propels my preference for WashU,” Ip says.
“I had a great relationship with Professor Ervin Rodin, who taught in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science,” Ip says. “Rodin (who retired in 2010 after 44 years at the university) inspired me and showed me how mathematics can open your mind, making you think methodically, which gave me the confidence to look at the data and theory and apply them to real life.”
And apply them he did, serving in multiple roles at Citigroup, including managing director and corporate banking and transaction banking head; at Merrill Lynch (Asia Pacific) as managing director of investments; and at Langham Hospitality Investments as CEO. Ip has served on the boards of 11 listed companies in Hong Kong, and he still serves on five, including New World Development, Power Assets and Hutchison Telecom HK.
Still, for all his success, Ip remembers how he got there and spends much of his time helping students to succeed. His circuitous journey from Hong Kong to St. Louis and eventually back to Hong Kong, via stops in Pittsburgh, New York City and San Francisco, “inspired me to support students in career development,” says Ip, “advising them on how to select the right companies for their career paths and using my business connections to help them get jobs.”
Ip founded and chairs the Career Advisory Council at two business schools at City University of Hong Kong and at HKUST. “I am proud of that work, work first developed at WashU,” Ip says.