With his oldest son, William ’21, set to graduate from St. Paul’s, incoming trustee Henry Ho ’90 and his wife, SaSa, realized that attending the ceremony would not be possible. After experiencing only sporadic and contained instances of COVID-19 in the beginning of the pandemic, Ho’s home country of Taiwan saw a rapid rise in cases in the spring, forcing the government to impose rigid travel restrictions and the country’s first COVID-related lockdown. The question of who could be present to support William at his graduation loomed.
Normally an intimate affair adjacent to the Lower School Pond, the 2021 Graduation ceremony on May 23 featured an expansive layout on the Guzzo Family Field, complete with designated family “squares” painted on the grass to promote social distancing. Each graduate was limited to inviting no more than eight immediate family members, due to health and safety protocols. When the day finally arrived, it was Ho’s longtime friend Clay Wang ’91 and his family cheering for William as he processed across the graduation stage.
Wang and Ho met in the summer of 1987. Ho was back in his native Taiwan after completing his Third Form year at St. Paul’s, and Wang was eager to begin his own SPS career that fall. As has become custom within the tight-knit group of SPS families in Taiwan, Ho reached out to Wang and his family to talk about what life was like at the School. The young men would forge a strong connection during their days in Millville.
“Clay was kind of like a younger brother from Taiwan,” Ho says of his relationship with Wang while they were at SPS. The two remained close during their college years at Harvard, and they kept the connection alive as Wang pursued a Ph.D. at Cal Tech and Ho joined his family’s company, Tung Ho Steel, in Taiwan. “Clay didn’t come back to Taiwan often,” Ho recalls, “but whenever he did, we made sure to connect for a meal or a get-together.”
Fast-forward to the next generation of Ho and Wang children. Ho was proud to see his two sons, William and Sanders ’22, choose to attend St. Paul’s School. When Wang’s son, Tyler ’25, was accepted this spring as an incoming Third Former, Wang reached out to his old friend so that their sons could connect on what it is like to be a student at SPS. It was a nostalgic exchange for the two alumni, one that inspired Ho to propose a solution for William’s graduation.
“I said, ‘Maybe you could go as William’s (and Sanders’) surrogate parents,’” Ho said. Wang, who lives with his family in Southern California, jumped at the chance to see the School in person with his son, and to represent his longtime friend. “To be able to fill in as William’s parents and attend his graduation was fantastic,” Wang says. “It shows a strong tradition within SPS alumni from Taiwan where we all look out for each other.”
William, Sanders, and the Wangs lingered long after the ceremony concluded, soaking in the experience of being on the grounds together. Wang snapped a photo of his form’s plaque in the Lower Dining Room and saw enthusiastic responses from formmates when he posted it to his social feed. He even kept the nameplate designating William’s family square at Graduation, not wanting to miss a memento. The group gathered one last time in Boston the next day before William and Sanders boarded a plane back to Taiwan.
“William genuinely loved St. Paul’s,” Wang says. “As an alum, seeing that, there’s clearly something that St. Paul’s is doing right. I’m celebrating my 30th Reunion this year, and to see that same love of the campus and people being so nice to each other 30 years later, it’s a very positive thing.”