Alumnus of the Year

Henry Kwan insists he is Marquette’s “luckiest” alumnus. Who could argue?

by Paula Wheeler

Kwan, whose full name is Henry King Hong Kwan, was nearly finished with school in his native Hong Kong in 1967 when Leftist riots against British colonial rule broke out, leading to violence in the streets and economic instability. His father wanted Henry in a safer environment. “I still had another year of high school but my dad said, ‘I’m hoping you can get into a college in America this September,’” Kwan recalls.

The next day Kwan, Arts ’71, headed to a bookstore to buy a Barron’s college guide. “It took just five minutes to go through because, for most schools, the application deadline was up,” he remembers. Just two universities were still open. One was Marquette.

Kwan admits he wasn’t a model applicant, with no SAT score, grades that were “certainly not pretty” and only a budding command of the English language. “Marquette was very kind-hearted and heard what my father had to say in his letter that was attached to my application,” he says, “and decided to offer Henry Kwan a chance.”

Kwan’s anxiety after arriving on campus as one of a handful of non-U.S. students was relieved as soon as he met Rev. John Naus, S.J., resident chaplain at Schroeder Hall. “His energy and open heart, his demeanor and friendly disposition — I felt comfortable almost immediately,” he says.

By junior year, Kwan was comfortable enough with academics to make room for sports. He made the men’s varsity tennis team and is still amused that a misreading of his tryout sheet led to his opening match victories in singles and doubles matches being reported in
The Marquette Tribune as wins by “King Kong Kwan.”

He graduated with a degree in chemistry. After earning his doctorate at the University of Michigan, he went into pharmaceutical research and development and helped create medications such as Claritin, Claritin D-24, Intron A and Nasonex. As a scientific consultant to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies today, he enjoys taking on projects that align with his interests and what he believes. If asked to consult on patent litigation, “I’m able to follow my heart and take the position I want to take,” he says. “If it’s something I can’t defend 100 percent, I say, ‘No, thank you.’”

Kwan remains committed to Marquette, catching men’s tennis matches when possible, remaining active in alumni and student send-off activities in New York/New Jersey, supporting renovations to the Todd Wehr Chemistry Building and contributing to the Father Naus Scholarship Fund. “My Marquette experience taught me to always contribute, share and be willing to give back,” he says. “It was meant to be. I am the luckiest alum ever.”

Alumni National Awards Weekend welcomed crowds to each college and every corner of campus before culminating in Saturday night’s big celebration.

Congratulate the 2017
All-University Alumni National Awards Honorees —

Professional Achievement Award
Dr. Ricardo R. Fernández, Arts ’62, Grad ’65

Service to the Community Award
Barbara Eannelli Klein, Bus Ad ’72

Service to Marquette Award
James M. Meier, Bus Ad ’84

Spirit of Marquette Award
Elizabeth Villarreal Lang, Arts ’03, and Nelson C. Lang, H Sci ’04

Friend of the University Award
Majerus Family Foundation

Meet all of our Alumni National Awards recipients online @


  1. Much enjoyed hearing Mr. Kwan’s story. He seems to me in graceful humility to accurately represent Marquette. Congratulations to him and to those who named him Alumnus of the year.

  2. I enjoyed getting to know Henry as a fellow resident of Schroeder Hall during the fall and spring semesters of ’70 & ’71. We spent a great deal of time together, played late night ping-pong and talked about our backgrounds, our families and our home towns. He is one of the most ethically sound people that I have ever known. To this day, I recall one of his sayings: “the wise man is one who knows what he doesn’t know”.

    Henry is an honorable man and a man that has surely represented Marquette well since his graduation in ’71.

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