August 8, 2003
Purdue alumna to receive honorary degree
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University alumna Anna Pao Sohmen will be awarded an honorary doctorate degree on Saturday (8/9) during the university's summer commencement ceremony.
Sohmen, of Hong Kong, will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree at 9:30 a.m. in the Elliott Hall of Music. She received her bachelor's degree in liberal arts from Purdue in 1966.
"Throughout her career and through her stellar record of community service, Anna Pao Sohmen has distinguished herself and Purdue University," said President Martin C. Jischke. "It's a great privilege for us to have her back on campus to receive this honor."
Sohmen, who is currently involved with several companies and community projects throughout China, has received distinction as a
Born in Chongqing, China, and raised in Hong Kong, she is the first child of the late Sir Yue-Kong Pao, the founder of the World-Wide Shipping Company, which is an international business in chartering oil tankers. He became one of the wealthiest men in the world.
In addition to her studies at Purdue, Sohmen pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago, McGill University in Montreal and London University. She holds tertiary degrees in fine arts, social work, psychology and sociology.
After working in social services in Canada, Sohmen returned to Hong Kong with her Austrian husband in 1970 and became an assistant lecturer in the Department of Social Services and Psychology at the University of Hong Kong. From 1974 to 1981, she accompanied her husband on corporate assignments in Bermuda and London for the family business, which also includes World-Wide Marine and Fire Insurance Company, an insurer of ships. Her husband took over the business after her father retired. Assisted by their eldest son Andreas, the shipping company has acquired NTA of Sweden and recently Bergensen, Norway. Together with the new gas tanker fleet, the company has become the largest shipowner in the world.
In 1994 Sohmen established another business in southern China, manufacturing uPVC window frames and doors under the brand name of Titane Windows. The company, Starform Services Ltd., has grown and now has offices in Hong Kong, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing, distributing profiles as well as finished windows and doors throughout China, Hong Kong and Korea. She also is a member of the board of directors of several other companies in Hong Kong, Bermuda and mainland China.
Sohmen's involvement with the community includes being chairwoman of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, the Sino-British Friendship Scholarship Scheme, the Hua Xia Foundation and the Environment Protection Committee. She also is the honorary president of the Chinese Manufacturers Association in Hong Kong and was a trustee of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London. In China, she is a member of CCPCC in Zhejiang.
She is a founding member of the Hong Kong Chinese International School, the Hong Kong Liver Foundation and the Helping Hand charity for elderly people. She also is, or has been, a member of Hong Kong's Town Planning Board, the Cultural and Heritage Commission and the Business Coalition on the Environment.
Writer: Jim Vruggink, (765) 494-2086
Source: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708