July 24, 2014 1:30PM
It’s not unusual to hear PSU alumni describe returning to the campus as “coming home,” but seldom do those ties extend half way around the globe and span more than three decades.
Tai-Yu (Gary) Kao and his wife, Wen-Meng Kao, are in Pittsburg this week to help their daughter, Chia-Ying (Jenny) Kao, and a niece, Carrie Meng, get settled as they prepare to make their own Pitt State memories.
Gary Kao said he met Wen-Meng on campus through the Chinese Student Association. They were married in the university’s Timmons Chapel in 1982. Both said returning to campus has brought back many happy memories.
“We stayed in Pittsburg almost six years,” Gary Kao said. “Think about how long you might live, that’s almost one-tenth, so I always think of Pittsburg as my second home.”
The Kaos last visited PSU about 12 years ago.
“At that time, we’d been away from Pittsburg and the United States for 15-18 years,” Gary Kao said. “I thought it was a good idea to come back and visit Pittsburg. Everything was so familiar to us. At that time not too much had changed. But this time when we came back, oh boy, there’s a lot of change. We see new construction, new landscaping everywhere.”
Some of the changes that please the Kaos the most are in the College of Technology, where their daughter will be working on a graduate degree. Jenny, who has an undergraduate degree in mass communications, is interested in modern printing technology.
“Dr. (John) Iley showed us around yesterday,” Wen Meng Kao said. “The equipment and the labs are very impressive. We couldn’t believe what we saw. Everything’s the best, so we are lucky that we chose PSU.”
Jenny and Carrie, who will be pursuing a degree in human resources development, said they are feeling the normal pre-semester jitters as they look for an apartment and prepare to begin their studies in a new place.
Although she has no memory of PSU, Carrie said she is actually returning to her first home. Her parents, both PSU students, lived in married student housing on campus when she was born, returning to Taiwan when she was three.
Gary and Wen-Meng Kao said their family ties to PSU were formed somewhat by chance. Gary read about the campus in a brochure in an English training center in Taiwan. Wen-Meng said one of her father’s friends had studied at PSU and recommended the university.
Gary came to study computer science and then earned a graduate degree in automotive technology. Wen-Meng earned masters degrees in counseling and special education.
When they returned to Taiwan, the Kaos put their PSU education to good use. Gary worked first for Ford of Taiwan.
“One of my bosses graduated from PSU,” Gary Kao said. “I couldn’t believe that!”
Later, he used what he had learned about automotive technology to transition into a new career in airline maintenance. He now teaches airline maintenance at the college level. Kao said most of his students have already completed their college degrees and are enrolled in an intensive, one-year program focused on airline maintenance.
Wen-Meng said she served for a time as a counselor in a special needs school and now teaches high school English.
Both of them trace their career successes back to their PSU experience and the people they met along the way.
“Everything I got is from PSU,” Gary Kao said, “starting from Automotive Technology.”