In his 69 years, Wong has just about seen it all. While at college in the 1960s, he studied gangs in his hometown of San Francisco’s Chinatown. He’s toured Europe and served on boards for outreach programs like the United Way and United Community Centers.
What he hasn’t done, however, is learned to play the ukulele.
“It would be nice if I could get the coordination and just chill back with a little bit of scotch and start to learn how to play,” he said, smiling as he leaned back in his office chair. “I know if I practice, my wife would go bonkers.”
It was his desire for more free time and less stress that motivated him to announce his retirement, he said.
Wong has taught sociology at the university level for over 40 years, starting at a community college in California. In 1981, Wong joined the TCU faculty, teaching an Introduction to Sociology class in the trailer that housed the sociology department.
“Now with everything that’s going on, I’ve never seen so much change,” he said.
The venue isn’t the only thing that’s changed since he started here. When Wong came to TCU, 91 percent of all 6,558 students were white. Only 4 percent of tenured faculty were minorities, according to a 1985 report from TCU’s Office of Institutional Research. A 2016-2017 report from the office shows that minority faculty has reached roughly 15.5 percent.
Sociology alumna Amber Havonec-Carey met Wong at a department banquet and described him as selfless and supportive.
“When he congratulated me on getting the sociology department award, he showed genuine interest and excitement,” she said.
Hovanec-Carey added that she was shocked to learn he was retiring, but was glad he’d have the opportunity to pursue his hobbies.
She also said Wong will leave behind a legacy emphasizing compassion and encouragement.
“From the few years I have known him, it is obvious that he is well-respected and has positively influenced not just the department but TCU campus-wide,” she said.
Students on RateMyProfessor.com have consistently rated Wong as a difficult grader, but many also described his stories as entertaining and engaging.
One anonymous student’s rating described Wong as kind and understanding. They also gave him a 5.0 difficulty score – the highest score available.
“Dr. Wong was an outstanding professor,” the student’s review read. “I looked forward to coming to class and learning something new and applicable to my life.”
Wong’s old-school teaching style is something sociology professor and Department of Sociology and Anthropology chair Mike Katovich called “the chalk and talk approach.”
“He had a very serious side and a down-to-business quality,” he explained, remembering his first meeting with Wong. “But also a playful side to him that we all liked.”
That playfulness has been on full display every December, as Katovich said Wong can be seen on campus wearing a Santa Claus hat.
After taking over Wong’s role as chair of the department this semester, Katovich said it is Wong’s counsel and friendship he’ll miss the most.
“He’s always been a very calm influence,” he said. “He puts things into perspective right away.”
Teaching is something Wong said has kept him young and “with it.” Still, he said he looks forward to spending time with family and friends.
Wong said it shouldn’t be difficult finding things to do once he leaves. On top of his plans to bike ride, travel and drink scotch, he said he has to make up for lost time with his wife.
“My wife has a honey-do list that I’ve been able to postpone for 37 years,” he said. That list is accruing interest as time goes on.
He said he also intends to remain involved with local charitable organizations.
“Most retired people, they say ‘I am so busy; I’m even more busy than when I worked,’ ” Wong said. “So, we’ll see.”