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Rectory Alumni Awards

2019 Distinguished Service Award: Oscar Tang '53 and Kevin Tang '82
Presented by Fred Williams, Head of School

While speaking with Oscar about this awards ceremony, I conveyed how excited Rectory was that Kevin ’82 and Oscar ’53 would accept this Distinguished Service Award recognition, the first father/son duo to do so. Oscar’s typical humble response to my enthusiasm suggested that all they did was give some money. Yes, the Tangs have made gifts to Rectory School, but I would argue that their actions—particularly establishing the Tang Endowment for Excellence in Teaching—represent the most impactful events in the history of our school. This view is supported by the fact that the rewards of the Tangs’ most recent generosity are felt by Rectory’s most important constituency: our faculty. Additionally, we recognize the Tangs, not for one single act of generosity, and not just for their generosity towards Rectory School. We honor these two alumni for the impact their success and generosity have had across the country and the world.

When asked to define Rectory in one word, the most common response is family. It is abundantly evident that the primary importance of family exists among the Tangs, and each generation is clearly guiding and mentoring the succeeding generation to carry on the impressive Tang legacy. Case in point, the P.Y. and Kinmay Tang Performing Arts Center, where our middle schoolers gather every morning, is named in honor of Oscar’s parents/Kevin’s grandparents. P.Y. Tang, one of the first native-born Chinese to graduate from a US university and attend MIT on a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship. He then returned to Hong Kong where his success as a business leader allowed him to be an active philanthropist with a focus on education. Oscar and Kevin now continue this family mission in a most extraordinary way.

On his entrance exam to Phillips Andover Academy, Oscar was asked to respond to the following question: Should one spend his time in idleness, and enjoy life that way, or is it better to work and keep one busy? In his response, Oscar opted for a day filled with work because, as he shared, “the idle day is very monotonous, for all I could do was sit around and wait for nothing.” It is clear neither Oscar nor Kevin has had many idle days in their lives. Oscar founded the very successful investment bank Reich and Tang, and in addition to his investing work, he has been an active volunteer serving on the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanity, co-founding the Committee of 100 in an effort to “encourage rapport and understanding between China and the United States,” chairing the board at Phillips Andover Academy, currently co-chairing the board of the New York Philharmonic, serving as a trustee for the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the Tangs established the Frances Young Tang Art Gallery, serving on the Vail Foundation, and serving as a member of the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Foundation board because, as he states, “Sliding sports are incredibly fun. They are fast and a little dangerous and always awe-inspiring.”

Like Oscar, Kevin would never opt to sit idly, a point echoed by Kevin’s former Rectory dorm parent, Mr. Peters, who suggested in a school report that “Kevin involves himself in the athletic program so he can burn off some of his unlimited physical energy.” Another former dorm parent, Mr. Laroque, may have identified the source of this energy when he noted “the amount of junk food that Kevin consumes is incredible!” Whether energized by junk food or some other means, Kevin has had a distinguished career in biotechnology and fund management. He has previously served as a director of Penwest Pharmaceuticals and in 2006, Mr. Tang co-founded Ardea Biosciences. He currently serves as chairman and CEO of Odonate Therapeutics, a company that works to develop treatments that will improve and extend the lives of people with cancer, and he is chairman of the boards of directors at Heron Therapeutics and La Jolla Pharmaceutical. All of these companies are working to enhance the lives of those in need. In his spare time, Kevin is President of Tang Capital Management, an investment firm specializing in life sciences.

My nephew Charlie Williams attends Skidmore College where, when he is not attending classes or playing basketball, he serves as a tour guide for prospective students. These tours always stop at the Tang Museum, established in Frances Tang’s honor. Just as Charlie pauses with guests at Skidmore to comment on the generosity of the Tangs and its impact on students, so, too, do tour guides on the Princeton, University of California - Berkley, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Cornell, Harvard, Phillips Andover, and, of course, Rectory School grounds. Outside of education, the Tangs support myriad environmental, artistic, and health-related causes, and their impact is profound.

At the 2014 Forbes Summit on Philanthropy, Bill Gates shared that one of the Middle Eastern Magnates mentioned in the Qur’an is that “the reason to talk about your philanthropy is that it encourages others to do the same.” I do not believe the Tangs are ones to talk about their philanthropy, but their giving surely encourages others to do the same. Rectory’s endowment doubled in the last ten years with the overwhelming majority directed to faculty salaries and benefits. This transformed Rectory from a stepping-stone on the way to a better-paying job to a place where faculty can make a career. A school is only as good as the people who work there, and the Tangs have given Rectory the ability to recruit and retain the best educators who will continue to impact Rectory students’ lives in the most positive of ways, just as John Bigelow did while tutoring Oscar and Mary Lou Seaward did while working with Kevin.

In a letter from Bob Sides, one-time director of admissions at Phillips Academy Andover, to Mr. John Bigelow, Mr. Sides writes,

“Oscar Tang was accepted by Yale bypassing all the boys on the waiting list despite the fact that his application was filed far after the Yale deadline. This was rather rough on the waiting list boys who had designated Yale as their first choice many months ago, but I guess Yale is more interested in a good man. Probably they are right.”

Rectory Headmaster John Green wrote of Kevin, “Kevin has become a well-organized and tremendously well-motivated youngster who is willing to pay the price for excellence, particularly in the academic area. We hope Kevin will stay in touch with this many friends at Rectory perhaps by way of our alumni activities.”

Oscar and Kevin Tang receive Rectory’s Distinguished Service Award because Rectory, like Yale, is interested in good people who are willing to pay the price for excellence. This is a well-deserved recognition for all they have done for so many, particularly in the area of academia, and more particularly, for Rectory School. We are forever grateful for what you have allowed and inspired our institution to do, and it is with heartfelt appreciation we recognize Oscar and Kevin Tang as Rectory’s Distinguished Service Award recipients.

  • 2019
  • Distinguished Service