Volunteer Spotlight: Courtney Wang, A78, A17P, EG19P

Courtney Wang_Crop1

Athletics Campaign Committee member and former lacrosse team member Courtney Wang, A78, A17P, EG19P, and his daughter An Rhiel, A17, EG19, traveled to Philadelphia in 2015 to cheer on the Jumbos during the NCAA National Championship Lacrosse game. Tufts defeated Lynchburg, 19–11, claiming its third national title.

When asked to describe his experience as a Tufts student, Courtney Wang, A78, A17P, EG19P, member of the Arts and Sciences Board of Advisors and the Athletics Campaign Committee, enthusiastically responds, “It was the best! Tufts was a fantastic fit for me, both academically and athletically.”

A strong math student in high school, Courtney took the full spectrum of calculus courses offered at Tufts. He credits one of these classes with creating a defining moment in his relationship with his father. One evening, after spending hours struggling to solve an exceptionally challenging homework problem, Courtney decided to share it with his father, An Wang, the founder of Wang Laboratories, Inc., a juggernaut in the field of computing during the technology boom of the 1970s and 1980s. In a matter of minutes, his father reconceptualized the problem; proposed an alternate way of approaching it; and deftly guided Courtney toward the solution. Courtney fondly recalls having an epiphany at that moment. “That was when I realized my dad was a genius!”

While at Tufts, Courtney also had the opportunity to pursue an independent study with Brighter World Co-Chair Sol Gittleman, H10, A85P, who was chairman of the Department of German and Russian at that time. Knowing that Courtney was a member of the Wang family, Professor Gittleman conceived of a project in which Courtney studied a German family business that, through tenacity and adaptability, prospered through four centuries. Courtney describes how impressed he was by the suggestion of a customized project that was ideally suited to him, and sums up his tutelage under Professor Gittleman as “fantastic and inspirational.”

Courtney’s athletics experience at Tufts proved to be “an unexpected, pleasant surprise.” He had been a good athlete in high school, a strong soccer player but a fledgling lacrosse player. However, after making the varsity soccer and lacrosse teams at Tufts, he “came into his own” as a lacrosse player and recalls the game against Brandeis during his freshman year that set the tone for the rest of his Tufts athletic career. An upperclassman’s injury led to the lacrosse coach sending Courtney onto the field for his first Tufts lacrosse game. Scoring a goal within his first moments on the field, Courtney proceeded to score three more before the game came to an end. Afterward, when his incredulous coach exclaimed, “I can’t believe it,” Courtney recalls responding, “I am just as surprised as you!” Courtney remained on the team, an integral part of its offensive strategy, for his entire four years. Thinking back, he muses, “When you’re a freshman embraced by your teammates—when juniors and seniors are willing to pass the ball to you—you feel that you’re part of something that’s bigger than yourself.”

As a member of the Athletics Campaign Committee, Courtney is focused on building relationships with, and soliciting gifts from, his former teammates. A year or two ago, preparing to contact his former teammates, Courtney imagined that a personal handwritten letter would likely evoke a better response than a form letter. He composed nearly 50 letters, each with a personalized opening paragraph followed by a common core. The pandemic struck just as he was getting ready to mail the letters; so he decided to pause his efforts. Several months ago, when life began to normalize somewhat, he realized that some of the references in the original letters had become outdated. Rather than starting all over again, he inserted a handwritten card into each envelope, explaining why some information was no longer current. In the end, his 50 initial handwritten communications grew to nearly 100. Reflecting on the effort of writing so many letters, Courtney remarks, “The truth is that I enjoyed the memories that came back to me as I wrote each letter.”

With his fondest, most meaningful memories of Tufts being associated with athletics, Courtney has made a generous gift toward the Ellis Oval project. Having read both volumes of Professor Russell Miller’s history of Tufts, as well as Sol Gittleman’s An Entrepreneurial University, Courtney readily shares the well-known anecdote about Charles Tufts being asked, “What are you going to do about that hill?” to which Tufts replied, “I’m going to put a light on it.” Inspired by that iconic story, Courtney resolved to make a gift for the installation of permanent lights on the Ellis Oval. “If an imaginary friend with ties to Tufts were to ask me what we’re going to do about the Ellis Oval, I would love to be able to say, ‘I’m going to put lights on it,’ just like Charles Tufts said about Walnut Hill.”