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Bob Christian Alumnus of the Year Award This award was created in 2006 during the school’s 40th anniversary celebrations to recognize the tremendous service of Mr. Bob Christian for his dedication and commitment to HKIS as the first Head of School. Derek Kwik '86 is the recipient of this year’s Bob Christian Alumnus of the Year Award. Derek is being recognized for his tremendous service and commitment to HKIS and the alumni community through the years. Congratulations Derek, and thank you for all of you have done for HKIS and the greater community! SPEECH FROM DEREK KWIK '86 Derek Kwik '86 addresses students at this year's Dragon Spotlight awards recognition evening in the High School. “Good evening parents, students and the seniors of Class 2023,
As the recipient of the Bob Christian Alumnus of the Year 2023 award, I would like to thank Dr. Roukema and the Award’s Selection Committee for choosing me among other promising candidates. This is particularly meaningful in the year of Bob Christian’s passing.
I want to thank my Mom and Dad for giving me the opportunity to have such an incredibly enriching experience at HKIS. The school really served as the foundation layer for who I am today.
I went to HKIS from grades 5 to 12 – all at South Bay. At that time, there was no Tai Tam campus. All of my memories were from those two buildings. Fondly, I remember my 5th grade teacher, Larry Neumann and my French teacher, Nancy Kroonenberg. She has long since retired and lives in the Netherlands. A few years ago, while on a family holiday in Amsterdam, I had the opportunity to introduce her to my wife and kids! How cool is that! A few months later, I was running a marathon in Albania and posted to social media. That led to a catch-up with another teacher, Joe Feia, in Tirana where he now teaches. Needless to say, the alumni community is global. HKIS is very special that way. Friendships are literally for life.
As a side note to that, Kwoon Chung Motors, the bus company that is contracted to take our kids to and from school – as a parent, we either love it or hate it. I loved it. The bus ride was an integral part of the school experience. The founder of Kwoon Chung Motors was a guy named Matthew Wong. Kwoon Chung Motors used to be a start-up. And you know what, he drove my bus route! He picked me up and dropped me off. Sometimes, he forgot to drop me off and I missed my bus stop.
Needless to say, I was so distraught when the Lower Primary School was torn down to make way for a brand-new school. It felt as if all of my memories went down with it. But in its place was a brand-new structure with the most amazing facilities that my kids and future generations can benefit from so I guess it was a fair trade.
HKIS was a pivotal time for me. It was a time of “firsts” in my childhood. First time learning how to swim. First time to learn another language. First time to compete in sports. First time at high school prom. First girlfriend. First break-up.
I was always the smallest kid in class every single year. Being small made me the target of all the short jokes, small jokes, little jokes but I took it all in stride. I felt like being the smallest guy meant I had the smallest opportunities.
But I found my pillar of confidence to be in sports. So, I joined varsity teams in track and field, cross country, played volleyball and rugby. I went to USC to study business. A big university in a sprawling city like Los Angeles added another dimension of complexity in my character development. Then came rock climbing, accelerated freefall skydiving and I even got my divemaster scuba certification. But I kept searching for “what’s the hardest thing out there?” Then I discovered multi-day ultra-endurance events. My first one was in the jungles of Sabah, Malaysia. 500 km in 10 days, non-stop. Wow, that was such an eye opener as to what I thought I can’t do, never do, won’t do, impossible to do, to cross the finishing line. I went on to run 19 more ultra-marathons…highest, driest, hottest, coldest, then the Amazon Jungle, Antarctica, Iceland, Namibia, Madagascar, Bhutan and many more. It didn’t matter if I had hamburger feet, 50 Celsius, -26 Celsius, a sandstorm or crazy jungle rain – I just found a way to reach down deep inside to muster enough willpower to run for 6 consecutive days and cross the finish line.
I also share this mindset with my kids. Last summer, they ran 5 km with only to stop for water breaks. Derek Kwik '86 stands with his family at the Dragon Spotlight awards. On the right, Derek's daughter admires the plaque awarded to her father as the Bob Christian Alumnus of the Year.Every year, I found myself on this path to share my stories, share my learnings and share my passion. I was on stage doing a TEDx talk, then I wrote a motivational book for adults and then I wrote an inspirational book for kids – illustrated by an HKIS student.
Of course, I have a day job. Running around the world is a very expensive hobby…and so are kids! Trust me, I have 3 of them. My company invests in start-ups – you know, all of those companies that no one has ever heard of before, until they become the next Google. You must sell them on why they should take your investor money, then you mentor them, help with their commercialization plans, sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, and when times are tough, you give them a pep talk. You do whatever it takes to be part of the team, do your part and earn the respect of your peers.
This type of mentoring led to my connection with Hillary Sandeen at the alumni office and how we can make internships a better experience for the students, alumni and the local community.
All of these random personal interests created a platform for me. I didn’t know what that was until one day, I realized the Power of Sharing. Sharing is such a powerful tool because behind it, is purpose. Purpose to do good. Purpose to contribute to a community, any community, in an impactful and memorable way.
Someone asked me why I am so generous with my time in all that I do. I said I sleep less and fully embrace the reality that while life is short, sharing makes the world a better place.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said "Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare think."
The resource pie only grows bigger if we all share. Helping others get to where they need to be like mentoring start-ups, implementing animal welfare, directly engaging youth in education initiatives, reading my children's book to schools, motivating adults thru storytelling, helping others secure jobs, writing recommendation letters, coaching others to complete their first triathlon, pushing others to run their first ultra-marathon.
You know, it doesn't matter what it is but the ability to help another person in need is indeed a very powerful thing. I rarely get even a thank you from them (and some even give no credit for the help they received) but that 5% that do remember, I just hope that you pay it forward. A person's value is measured by giving not by receiving.
I want to thank HKIS for giving me this award but more importantly for being such a big force in my life and for giving me an opportunity to share with great purpose. The Dragon Spotlight Awards are for selected students who are recognized for academic excellence and service so for those of you who are recognized for your service and academic excellence, keep doing what you are doing. Lead by example.