Why We Give

Why We GiveThe Why We Give series highlights the various reasons why members of the Shanghai American School community give back to the school. Whether it’s annual giving, giving to special projects, or first-time giving, hear from parents, alumni, faculty, and staff to learn why giving to SAS is important.

Why We Give

Alex T. Zhang ’12: Why I Give Back to my Alma Mater

Alex T Zhang '12

Alex Terry Zhang is a member of SAS Pudong’s class of 2012. Growing up in Indiana and moving to Shanghai in 2008, Zhang spent his high school years at Shanghai American School. Not only was studying at SAS a unique experience that offered him a foot in many doors, Zhang has had numerous conversations that began with ‘You attended SAS?’ which have presented opportunities and sparked exchanges that have added value to his life.

When Zhang thinks back on his time at SAS, he shares, “I remember working on the school yearbook with Mrs. Nakai for three years and taking AP courses with teachers who cultivated intellectual curiosity. I remember WORD Magazine, We Design, quiz bowl, table tennis, and countless other extracurricular activities. However, my fondest memories were those shared with my classmates and spent learning from their diversity of thought and experiences.”

After graduating from SAS, Zhang pursued his undergraduate studies at New York University where he majored in Statistics and Finance. His major at NYU paved his way to a job at investment bank Rothschild where Zhang worked within their restructuring division. In 2017, he received an offer to work as an associate at Athyrium Capital, where he remains to this day. At Athyrium, Zhang helps all kinds of healthcare companies – including diagnostics, biotech, services, and others – find both debt and equity capital so that they can fund their scientific innovations. “I have loved it so far and can really see myself making a career out of healthcare investing,” he shares.

When asked what motivates his giving, Zhang answers through a personal promise he made himself, “I pledged to give back to those who have helped me become the person I am today.” Zhang elaborates, “I wanted to show my gratitude for the environment and people that SAS brought into my life.”

So, what does philanthropy mean to him? “To me, philanthropy means enabling others so that they can focus more on what matters to them. Significant external circumstances determine our success and how our lives are shaped. For example, the people I met at SAS were caring and enabled me to develop a strong sense of introspection and responsibility that has defined my life for the better. Philanthropy is supporting such external forces so that others can enable themselves as well.”

Zhang is greatly involved in SAS alumni activities and has attended the last three annual New York alumni events. For him, it’s important to reconnect with old acquaintances and to meet other alumni, “the sense of community that SAS actively tries to cultivate is very special. I think Brittany Haney and the rest of the Alumni Relations team do a phenomenal job of cultivating this alumni culture.”

But it doesn’t end there. “It surprises me how much of a role my high school continues to play in my life. It goes beyond regularly running into alumni in the streets of New York. Many of my close friends today are from the Pudong Class of 2012. Others are SAS alumni whom I met for the first time when I was studying at NYU. One classmate not only attended NYU as well, but also had the same investment banking internship. Even last week, I caught up with another classmate in New York who gave me great advice on how I could better frame a personal issue to alleviate stress.” 

That forms the foundation for Zhang’s desire to support his alma mater – “I look back on the experiences I had and the people I met through SAS and recognize that they helped define who I am today. I want to support the institution so that others may benefit from similar experiences.”

As a first-time donor to SAS this year, Alex looks forward to continuing to support a variety of SAS programs moving forward. “Giving shows you care,” he shares, “and showing that you care is crucial to defining who you are.”

SAS Finance Director, Wendy Li: Why I Give to SAS

Wendy Li has been part of the SAS community for fifteen years, first as a parent and now as SAS’s Finance Director. Li was born in Shanghai and went to the United States in the 80s where she got her finance degree and license. Most of her career took place in the corporate sector, but after her daughter Meredith graduated from SAS in 2010, she knew she had to stay connected to the school and in 2011, she joined SAS as an employee. 

When asked why, Li answers honestly, “I love the school. I am very proud of the school. My daughter went to a first-class college in the States, Williams College, and I am so proud of her, too. She also just got accepted to the University of Chicago medical school. SAS taught her to think big and open her world.”  

Li shares more about her transition to the educational sector, “Most of my career was in the corporate financial area; I was a certified public accountant for Deloitte. I always worked in the corporate field and after my daughter graduated, I thought – the school is a different area but I’m very interested to know about the place where we all grow up– everybody goes to school and Shanghai American School is such a special one. All my friends in China were parents at SAS and they all said they would love for me to join the school. So I did, and I worked, and I stayed, and I still love the school.” 

Li has always supported the fundraising efforts at SAS. For her, philanthropy is philosophical and a way of life, “I feel like philanthropy is something everybody should do. Whether you are giving money or whether you are giving time, we should all think about philanthropy and act philanthropically.”

She continues, “Giving is a fundamental belief I have. For me, giving to the school means giving to the younger generation to fund a better educational program and to support the young people who come to this school. Before they start their careers, we are giving them opportunities to discover their passions; by giving them more choices we are offering them knowledge and opportunities. Giving is an important part of my life.”  

As someone who has held various roles at SAS over the years, Li is in a unique position to see the effect that fundraising at SAS has had over many years. “When I joined the school, the capacity to fundraise was different. The Development Office has grown and evolved into a very important department at the school. There are lots of special projects going on at SAS which offer the children opportunities to explore a variety of interests. The extensions to these programs are not funded from the tuition, rather from fundraising done through the Development Office. Those who give this money for these projects are glad to see how things are growing and evolving and to see how very special these opportunities are for the students.”

Li ends with some words of admiration for the work of her colleagues at SAS, “the Development Office is a great office and I see the impact of your great work. I am committed to supporting your efforts 100% because your work adds value and meaning to the school and to the lives of the kids.”