After 20 years as dean of Cal State East Bay’s College of Science, Dr. Michael Leung is retiring.
“It’s time for me to retire and give the position to somebody else to lead what I believe to be a wonderful college, with wonderful staff and faculty and wonderful students,” said Leung, who has served as dean since 1995.
“I am grateful for the enormous contributions Dean Leung has made as the academic leader of the College of Science for the past 20 years,” said President Leroy M. Morishita. “Before the concept of STEM was widely known, Michael advocated for the campus to pursue interdisciplinary advances in teaching and learning. His support of faculty, commitment to research and prioritization of student success in the sciences will have a lasting effect on our graduates. On behalf of the Cal State East Bay community, I want to thank Dean Leung for all that he has accomplished on behalf of the university and our students.”
Leung was born in China and raised in Hong Kong, where he received a British education. Hoping to become a high school geography teacher, Leung knew he’d have to move to finish his schooling.
“I went to the library and there on the bulletin board was an announcement for a scholarship to Buffalo,” Leung said. “I looked at it and thought, ‘Hey! Maybe this is my chance to leave Hong Kong and go to the United States, a brand new country, and maybe the opportunity for me to explore other things.’ I applied and they gave me the scholarship.”
Leung quickly discovered his love for chemistry, switched majors and graduated with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biochemistry at State University of New York (SUNY), College at Buffalo. He went on to get his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Southern California, and received his post-doctoral training via a National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award at UCLA.
“I am very happy to have come to America,” Leung said. “I believe America is a wonderful country. It doesn’t promise you everything. It doesn’t give you everything, but it does allow you to do a lot of different things, which for me would have been impossible to do in Hong Kong. That’s what I think every immigrant should be grateful for — to have two cultures. I think we have a responsibility to bring in the good things from our previous culture and incorporate them into our new culture because neither side is perfect.”
Leung joined the faculty at SUNY, where he maintained an active and productive research program that received continuous federal and state grant support, as well as funding from private corporations. His grant and award credits include NIH, National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the Hoffman-La Roche Foundation, and Johnson and Johnson Dental Care. During his career, he has published 56 articles and book chapters in peer-reviewed journals and has made 57 presentations in scientific conferences.
Over his career, Leung says he has seen remarkable changes, but the one that educators need to pay most attention to now is the amount of pressure put on young people.
“The university plays an important role in preparing young people for a career, but it’s also important to prepare them for the world,” Leung said. “Young people these days have to deal with a lot more issues and that makes higher education training so much more important when it comes to critical thinking, analytical thinking, and the ability to make clear decisions and resolve problems.”
“Dean Leung has brought tremendous leadership, passion and expertise to this campus during his tenure as dean and has built a strong foundation on which to see his college continue to thrive,” Interim Provost Carolyn Nelson said. “He will be missed, but I wish him the very best of all of the life experiences he has had to put off while investing so much of his time and energy as dean.”
Leung said higher education is missing its mission if it does not send students out into the world prepared to handle everyday obstacles in both their professional and personal lives.
“Everyone can succeed under favorable conditions,” he said. “That’s nothing to brag about. But if you can succeed under adverse conditions, that is something that we should be proud of. That is where the human spirit comes in.”
Once retired, Leung hopes to spend more time with his family and catch up on things he hasn’t had time for as dean.
“I need to get better connected with the rest of my family who lives down south,” he said. “That is one of the things I considered when I thought about retiring. I have music unheard, books unread, and friends and relatives unvisited.”
Leung will be replaced as dean by Jason Singley. Read more on Singley's appointment as dean.