Ning Tang, C'98, returns to give Founders' Day address

Sewanee celebrated Founders’ Day Oct. 12 with the traditional Convocation in All Saints’ Chapel. Five honorary degrees were awarded by the University, and Ning Tang, C’98, delivered the Founders’ Day Address. Members of Sewanee’s Board of Trustees were honored guests at the Convocation.

In remarks preceding the awarding of honorary degrees, Vice-Chancellor John McCardell noted that in the year in which the University observes the sesquicentennial of the first nine students’ arrival on campus, it was appropriate to assemble a group of honorees that weaves together strands of Sewanee’s past, present, and future. The recipients remind us of the University’s Episcopal heritage, and of the importance of history in our life and work; they acknowledge the South, whose name the University bears; and we recognize the increasing global reach of the University and the accomplishments of its alumni.

The University conferred honorary degrees upon Ning Tang, C’98, founder and CEO of global financial technology leader CreditEase; Christy S. Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum; and S. Waite Rawls III, president of the American Civil War Museum Foundation, each of whom received an honorary doctor of civil law; and the Most Rev. Mark J. Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, who received an honorary doctor of divinity. The Honorable William F. Winter, former governor of Mississippi, received an honorary doctor of civil law during a special ceremony in Jackson, Mississippi, on August 16, 2018, and was honored in absentia. Read more about each recipient here.

Ning Tang, C'98, pioneered marketplace lending in China when he founded CreditEase, a global financial technology leader specializing in inclusive finance and wealth management. In his address, he talked about the importance of a liberal arts education in developing global citizens who can shoulder the responsibilities demanded by an increasingly challenging world.

“When I founded CreditEase in 2006, my job was to grow it from zero to great with very limited resources,” he said. “What makes a company great? I do not think it’s the business model; I think it’s about people, about integrity, social purpose, diversity, openness, innovative culture, and for all those I have drawn great strength from what I learned at Sewanee.” He credited not only his work in the classroom, but also with the student Organization for Cross-Cultural Understanding, and most significantly, his internship experience with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.

He expressed excitement about the possibility of Sewanee expanding its business curriculum: “Business and the liberal arts can be very complementary … I believe such initiatives can only make Sewanee stronger and its true liberal arts roots current and long-lasting.”

Read his full address, which received a standing ovation.

The Convocation concluded with the sound of bells following the singing of the Alma Mater and the university hymn.