Drs. Carolyn and Murl Dirksen were honored guests at the
centennial of Henan University in Kaifeng, China, earlier this
While there, they represented Lee University at a convention of
two international higher education groups at SIAS University in
Xinzheng, which is also in the Henan province. The gathering
there, of the International Association of Universities and the
Association of Universities in Asia and the Pacific, conducted
business and then went as an honored delegation to the centennial
"It was amazing," said Carolyn Dirksen, who is vice president
for Academic Affairs at Lee, and also an honorary professor at
Henan University. "They stopped traffic in a city of five million
people so our bus could get to the ceremony."
The Dirksens spent a year teaching English at Henan University
through the English Language Institute in 1984 and began a
relationship with the institution that has been developing ever
She said of their original work there, "It was really one of the
first exchange relationships between a university in the U.S. -
particularly a Christian university - and a university in China.
This country and its people, especially those we worked with at
these two colleges, have held a special place in our hearts since
In the recent ceremonies, the Dirksens received honor as
official delegates but also as old friends; in turn they honored
the host school celebrating one hundred years. As official Lee
representatives, they presented a crystal flame as a congratulatory
gift to Henan University's president, Lou Yuangong.
"We were blown away by how spectacular the celebration was and
by the feeling of welcome. It was inspiring," Dirksen said.
Centennials being rare, Henan had reason to pull out all the
stops. Lee University will celebrate the same milestone in
only five years. So the Dirksens' trip around the world may
end up providing ideas for practical use very soon.
Originally founded to train Chinese scholars to study abroad,
Henan University began teaching Chinese as a second language in
1985. Since then, more than 3000 overseas students have been
admitted. Going back as far as 1986, students from Lee have studied
at Henan University as part of Lee's exchange, and Lee graduate
Callie Smith, is currently teaching there. Lee is also
hosting a student from Henan, Yan Wei.
Presently, Henan University maintains 11 branches of learning:
liberal arts, science, engineering, economics, management, law,
philosophy, education, history, agriculture and medicine. It
consists of 26 schools and teaching departments.
SIAS International University is located in Xinzheng, a suburb
of Zhengzhou in Henan Province. Founded with less than $2 million,
it has grown from 250 students to 16,000 students, many of whom say
they chose SIAS because of the American-style campus life.
PHOTOS: Murl and Carolyn Dirksen pose in front of a
backdrop of institutions participating in the centennial
celebration of Henan University. Carolyn Dirksen presents President
Lou Yuangong of Henan University with a crystal flame as a token of
congratulations from Lee University.