My Path to a Brighter World

A personal reflection by Hon Hoi Yee
Hon Hoi Yee and Barbara

Hon Hoi Yee, E72, M77, and his wife, Barbara

Retired emergency room doctor Hon Hoi Yee will be celebrating a double reunion this spring. The occasion prompted the following reflection.


My story begins with my great-great-grandfather. When he passed the civil service exam in China, he was assigned to an administrative post in a southern province. His success would be passed down to subsequent generations; his great-grandson, my father, would become a wealthy ship owner—until the Communist government confiscated everything.

Penniless, but with help from friends, my father came to the United States in 1951. He found work as a waiter in the Statler Hotel in Boston (where I later bussed tables in high school). After several years, he saved up enough money to send for my mother, myself, and my sister and brother.

I started first grade not knowing any English, but by sixth grade, when I heard of a prestigious public high school, Boston Latin, I was ready for a new challenge. Ms. Callahan, our teacher, told us we would have to spend hours after school studying for the entrance examination. She gave generously of her own time to help us, though, and she and my parents were elated when I was admitted.

I will always remember my first day. I got lost in the bowels of the MBTA, trying to get to Boston Latin! Still, I was fortunate that a kind fellow student showed me the ropes of both the new school and public transit. My Boston Latin education prepared me well for Tufts—two times over. After graduating from the School of Engineering, I went on to the School of Medicine.

I loved the opportunities I found at Tufts, and I formed lifelong friendships.
My Tufts reunions kindle many happy memories: sledding down the Hill on trays; racing down Memorial Steps to make an 8 a.m. Saturday chemistry class; and taking physics with Allan Cormack, H80, who would later share the Nobel Prize.

After Tufts, I embarked on a 45-year career in emergency medicine where I found fulfillment in helping patients. I am now retired, but throughout the pandemic I continue to work per diem at an urgent care facility. For the past 30 years, I also have served as a board member of South Cove Manor and Rehabilitation, where I can contribute to its understanding of Asian diets, customs, and languages.

Today, as I look back, it is important that I return to Tufts what was given to me. All eight years of my Tufts education were made possible thanks to financial aid. Recently, my wife, Barbara, and I established the endowed Yee Family Scholarship at the School of Engineering, and we continue to support both the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine annual funds.

This year, we are honoring my reunions by increasing our gifts. I also joined my 50th Reunion Class Gift Committee, to inspire my classmates to return to Tufts and to contribute toward a class gift challenge.

As I reflect on my family’s story, it’s clear that no matter what path we take, we can encounter the kindness of others—gestures that can make a world of difference. So what would I say to that apprehensive 12-year-old, beginning his long journey? No matter how arduous your path may be, surround yourself with supporters and never stop striving toward your dream. And should you achieve that goal, remember to give back to help those who are coming behind you.