Donor Sherman Jen reflects on lifelong commitment to education

Author: 
Ali Blythe

This year, when students enter the bright atrium of the Sherman Jen Building for the first time, they will step into a hub for an education like no other: A living laboratory to foster collaboration among globally minded students and innovation in environmental science.

The man for whom the building has been named—thanks to his lifelong commitment to education and $7 million in contributions to Royal Roads University—is Dr. Sherman Jen, founder and chairman of China Maple Leaf Educational Systems, which provides education that blends the best of the Canadian and Chinese models.

Jen notes Maple Leaf was founded the same year Royal Roads was accredited as a public applied research university. He established his first school in Dalian in 1995, introducing B.C. Dogwood curriculum to China. Since then, Maple Leaf has expanded to 80 schools spanning preschool to high school with a student population of more than 33,000. Classes are taught in Chinese and English and graduates receive a high school diploma from China and B.C.

“Maple Leaf and Royal Roads have both grown over the past 23 years while striving to keep our core values and our focus on welcoming students from all over the world,” says Jen. “Supporting students and connecting them with the local community is an important role for a university in today’s society, as it contributes to positive global citizenship.”

Jen says his lifelong focus on education began in childhood, although he didn’t realize it at the time.

“I was born in a village in Hebei province,” says Jen. “It was a very poor village, but as a child I didn't think of my family as poor because all families in our village had the same life. It was a simple life, but as a farming village, we always had enough food.” 

Jen says his parents’ support of his education was one of the deepest impressions of his childhood.

“Education was important in my family and at a time when many children left school to go to work in the fields, my parents supported all of my brothers and sisters to go to school.”

Jen finished elementary school and continued his education in a nearby village. After finishing the foundational level of education, Jen worked in his village for two years. It was then he was given the opportunity to enroll in Beijing Foreign Languages University, which he now sees as the turning point of his life.

“I was the only one from my family and my village to go to university,” says Jen. “My studies at university allowed me to learn English and this proved to be a very valuable skill when I started my own business. I benefitted greatly from my education.”

Jen understands that with great opportunity comes great responsibility.

“The best way for me to repay the advantages I have gained through my education has been through supporting others to achieve their educational goals.”  

With the opening of the Sherman Jen Building, his legacy for future students is one that speaks to the transformation that is possible with a clear vision.

“My advice for all students is to study hard, to take your education seriously. Set your direction, keep your goals in mind and strive to achieve them.”

Share your story with us on Giving Day: September 18, a day to raise funds and awareness about making a life-changing difference. Join us on social media using the hashtags #RRUPowerOfOne and #RRUGivingDay to celebrate your connection to Royal Roads and the gifts you make. Make a donation of any size to support the area of the university that matters most to you.