I believe success in life is not based in
assets gained or knowledge acquired.
It is how we make use of what we have
to contribute to society
about Cyrus Tang
Born in Suzhou, China, Cyrus Tang was one of the longest-standing and continuous philanthropists among Chinese Americans. He arrived in the United States in 1950 from Hong Kong to study at Penn Military Academy (now Widener University). In 1964, he founded his first wholly-owned company, National Material L.P., a steel processing, and distribution company. A prolific entrepreneur, over the next several decades, he would go on to found and acquire over 150 companies.
While Cyrus Tang has been a successful businessman, he has always been mindful of how to best use his resources to benefit society in areas where the needs are greatest. To that end, he established the Tang Foundations in 1995. He determined early on that knowledge, health care, and public involvement are all essential to community progress.
He recognized that supporting others can inspire them to give back to their communities, and as a result, his programs focus on projects that have the potential to grow and expand beyond the Foundations’ support. The Tang Foundations support education and medical research in his native and adopted countries, China and the United States.
Among the factors that motivate Cyrus Tang’s giving, education is foremost. Illustrative gifts include donations to educational and health entities within the United States as well as in China. Shanghai Jiaotong University received USD 16 million (RMB 100 million) in 2014 for translational medicine, and the RAND Corporation, a research center based in Southern California, received a grant of USD 2 million (RMB 12 million) in 2007 for the Tang Institute for U.S.–China Relations.
A second key motivation of Cyrus Tang’s giving is cross-cultural understanding. The Cyrus Tang Hall of China at the Field Museum of Chicago, opened in June 2015, is the newest permanent exhibition since 2011. The exhibition is the largest anthropology-focused exhibition on China’s culture and history in the United States.
Cyrus Tang’s previous gifts to the Field Museum of Chicago exceeded USD 7 million (RMB 42 million) and have supported anthropological and biological research in China.
Cyrus Tang took a long-term view to philanthropy and suggested that future philanthropists avoid fads. “I do feel that each person should try to find a cause or causes that they are passionate about, rather than what is fashionable at the time.”