About Us

Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees

Overall governance of the university lies in the hands of its 15-member Board of Trustees. The Trustees select the president, oversee all faculty and senior administrative appointments, monitor the budget, supervise the endowment, and protect University property.

By-Laws of the Trustees

The By-Laws of the trustees specify the rules by which the trustees operate. The by-laws set the schedule of trustee meetings. The role and powers of the trustees’ standing committees are stated in the by-laws.

Venerable Master Hsing Yun Shih

Founder, Chairman Emeritus

Venerable Master Hsing Yun Shih / Founder, Chairman Emeritus

Grand Master Hsing Yun was born in Jiangsu Province, China in 1927. At the age of 12 he entered into a Buddhist monastery in Nanjing. He completed his ordination in 1941, and received the formal announcement as the 48th patriarch of the Lin-Chi Ch’an School of Mahayana Buddhism.

Grand Master Hsing Yun is the founder of the Fo Guang Shan International Buddhist Order, where he fulfilled his long-held vow of promoting Humanistic Buddhism. For nearly half a century, Grand Master Hsing Yun has devoted his efforts to transforming our world through the practice of Humanistic Buddhism. He also founded Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) in 1992. It has active chapters worldwide.

He is an outspoken proponent of equality among all people and religious traditions. The Order has the largest number of female monastics of any Buddhist order today. By providing and supporting educational and leadership opportunities, he has worked to improve the status of women in Asia. He has held full ordination ceremonies for women of the Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. In addition, Grand Master Hsing Yun annually organizes conferences to bring together the various Buddhist schools and to promote dialogue between Buddhists and other major religious groups.

He travels and lectures widely. His insightful, engaging, and witty lectures unfailingly endear him to audiences. He reminds us that to transform our world, we must be actively engaged in it. “Community transcends the individual,” he says, “and in doing so, fulfills the individual in the most complete way possible.” Wherever he goes, he encourages people to unite both the local and global community into a world of complete equality, joyfulness, and perfect peace.

Grand Master Hsing Yun is a prolific writer and has authored over one hundred books in Chinese. His writings have been translated into English and many other languages.

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Lydia Chao

Civic Leader/ Chair

Lydia Chao, Civic Leader/Chair

Lydia K. Chao is the second daughter of Dr. C.F. Koo and Madam Cecilia Y. Koo. She studied history at the Fu Ren Catholic University of Taiwan and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. She went on to the Graduate School of Seattle University to study American history during 1974/75. Her academic pursuit, however, was interrupted when she married James Chao in Taipei in 1975.

Lydia moved with her husband to Houston in 1976 and raised three lovely children while living in Texas. Due to her husband’s work, the family lived in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Singapore for many years before settling down in Houston. While she has been a devoted mother, wife, and daughter-in-law throughout her life, she found time to be actively involved in civic and community service wherever she lived. She is currently involved with the following institutions in various capacities:

  • Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston – member of the Advisory Board
  • Neuhaus Education Center in Houston – member of the Advisory Board
  • KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) in Houston – member of the Capital Campaign Committee
  • Mayo Clinic Foundation – member of the Global Advisory Council
  • T.T. Chao Education and Cultural Foundation in Taiwan – Chief Executive
  • Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Organization – member of the Board of Trustees

Lydia was the past director of the Board of Fu-Hui Charitable Foundation in Hong Kong and founder of the Chung-Mei Cultural Forum in Houston, which sponsors multiple annual cultural events for the local community. She travels several times a year to visit China and Taiwan, where hundreds of scholarship student awardees eagerly await her warm embrace.

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Venerable Hui Dong Shih

Abbot of Hsi Lai Temple / Secretary

Venerable Hui Dong Shih, Abbot of Hsi Lai Temple / Secretary

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Roger Frank

Treasurer / Entrepreneur

Roger Frank, Treasurer / Entrepreneur

Roger Frank is one of the pioneers in using capital markets for social change. After 20 years on Wall Street with a focus on emerging markets, he was part of the team that created the first commercial, cross-border capital raise for microfinance. As part of that effort, he spent years traveling the globe to convince investors that poor women in emerging markets who want to take care of their families are a good credit risk. The models he helped create brought several billion dollars of commercial funding into the field, and in 2008 he won a Fast Company Award for businesses pioneering new models for social impact.

He created I3 Advisors to build on his experience on Wall Street, emerging markets, microfinance, and impact investing. i3 is a commercial fund management company whose goal is to use the capital markets as a funding source for positive social change. He has worked with CEOs of major multi-national corporations and presidents of central banks; he has discussed new models for sustainability with presidents and princesses and taught women prisoners, disabled adults, and students of all ages.

After starting his own graphic design studio, founding community arts programs, teaching in prisons and schools, and participating in an extensive tour behind the iron curtain, Roger received an MBA in Finance and International Business from New York University Stern School of Business. He holds a BFA, cum laude, from the University of Delaware, speaks conversational German and Spanish, and is on the Livelihoods Council for Save the Children, the Microfinance Social Performance Task Force, and the Advisory Board of the Fashion & Sustainability Graduate Program at the University of Delaware.

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Venerable Hsin Bau Shih

Abbot of Fo Guang Shan

Venerable Hsin Bau Shih, Abbot of Fo Guang Shan

Venerable Hsin Bau Shih (Ven. Hui Chi, Chi Rung Wang) was born in Taiwan in 1964. The Venerable started graduate studies in Chinese Buddhism in Fo Guang Shan in 1986, and in 1988 tonsured under Venerable Master Hsing Yun in Hsi Lai Temple.

Since 1990, the Venerable has been assigned to Vancouver in Canada, Deer Park in New York, and Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles. Besides serving as abbot of Hsi Lai Temple and trustee at the University of the West, the Venerable is also the Vice Secretary General of Buddha’s Light International Association World Headquarters, overseeing the chapters in western parts of North America.

In 2012 Venerable Hsin Bau was elected Chairperson of Fo Guang Shan Board of Directors as well as the ninth-term Head Abbot of Fo Guang Shan Temple.

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Venerable Hui Chuan Shih

Vice Abbot of Fo Guang Shan

Venerable Hui Chuan Shih, Vice Abbot of Fo Guang Shan

Venerable Hui Chuan (Hsi-Shen Fang) was born into a Buddhist family in Taiwan. His grandfather, aunt, and brother have been in the monastery. Under these influences, in 1988 he began his monkhood in Fo Guang Shan under Master Hsing Yun.

He has served as the Vice President of Pu-Men High School in Taiwan, Vice President of Taipei Buddhist Monk College, Executor of Young Adult Divisions of BLIA (Buddhist Light International Association), Abbot of Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles, CA., council member of Fo-Guang Shan North America, and Vice President of the Merit Times, a daily newspaper published in English and Chinese. Currently, he holds the following positions: Chairman of Fo Guang Shan Domestic Supervisory Council, BLIA World Headquarters Deputy Secretary General, and BLIA World Headquarters Young Adult Division Director.

“Education to foster talent, culture to propagate the Dharma, charity to benefit society, and Dharma services to purify human minds,” these are the four principal missions Venerable Hui-Chuan follows to spread the seeds of Humanistic Buddhism. He travels around the world to give lectures, his proficiency in lecturing and articulation winning much recognition around the globe. His enthusiasm to go out into the community to offer service has benefited many as well. During his time as abbot of Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles, his speeches and ceremonies drew large audiences. Through numerous activities, many participants have embraced Buddhist beliefs.

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Venerable Tzu Hui Shih

Elder of Fo Guang Shan

Venerable Tzu Hui Shih, Elder of Fo Guang Shan

Venerable Tzu Hui (Yu-Li Chang) received a master’s degree in literature from Japan’s Otani University and is a fellow of that country’s Kyoto University. Currently, she is the director of the Fo Guang Shan Education Council, Fo Guang Shan Monastery, and executive director of Fo Guang Shan Planning Committee for Universities.

An expert in temple administration and planning as well as education for monastics and the laity, she is also a translation specialist fluent in Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Japanese. She has served as Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s Taiwanese translator for more than thirty years, and her interpretation is unrivaled in its articulation and refinement.

Under the direction of Venerable Master Hsing Yun, she started employing music as a means to propagate the Dharma in 1978 and established the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastic Choir. Since 1979, she had led the choir to perform in various venues around the world, winning international acclaim for their presentations.

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Venerable Tzu Jung Shih

Acting President, BLIA World Headquarters

Venerable Tzu Jung Shih, Acting President, BLIA World Headquarters

Venerable Tzu Jung (Suh-Jen Wu) is a graduate of Japan’s Bukkyo University, where she majored in social welfare, and has received an honorary doctorate degree from University of the West.

In 1974, she received a national award for outstanding contributions for social welfare, and in 2000 and 2003, awards for social merit from the Taiwanese Ministry of Education.

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Cecil Willis, Jr.

Stafford City, Texas Councilman

Cecil Willis, Jr. Stafford City, Texas Councilman

Cecil Willis, Jr. was born in Comfort, Texas and grew up in nearby San Antonio. Cecil went to Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas and graduated with a BS degree in horticultural science in 1966. Upon graduation, Cecil went to work for the City of Houston in the Parks and Recreation Department as the City Horticulturist from 1966 to 1971. Upon leaving the City of Houston, Cecil worked from 1971 to 1972 for Pampered Lawns, a landscape/maintenance company. In 1972, Cecil was offered a job with Quail Valley Fund, Inc. as the fund’s executive director and continues with them to the present.

Cecil and his family moved to Stafford, Texas in March of 1975. He was elected to the Fort Bend Water Control and Improvement District #2 (WC&ID #2) Board in 1976 and served until 1979, when he was elected to the Stafford City Council, where he served until 1995. He left the Stafford City Council for a brief time to pursue other aspirations and was re-elected to the Stafford City Council in 2000 and continues to serve. Cecil currently serves as a director on the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

Cecil is very active in both the community as well as the governmental scene. He has served as a director on the Fort Bend County Fair Association Board since 1988 and was president of the association in 1995. Cecil serves as a director on the Texas Association of Fairs and Events board and has been with the Stafford-Missouri City Lions Club as an active member for over 30 years. He is currently club president.

Cecil and his wife are both very strong advocates of education as can be seen by their active participation in the Stafford Municipal School District, not only at the administrative level, but at the volunteer and student level as well. They attend most of the functions presented by the school, its teachers, and, especially, its students. Cecil is also a board member on the Fort Bend County Texas A & M Club, which works to provide scholarships for students to attend Texas A & M University.

Cecil enjoys being with his family, working in the yard, working with livestock, and helping young people with their FFA and 4-H projects. His real love is Texas A & M football and any other Texas A & M function or athletic event.

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Darlene Lanham, MPAff

Darlene Lanham brings over 15 years of leadership in public affairs, policy, and public administration to serve UWest’s mission.

Ms. Lanham is Managing Director of Hill Country Advisory Group, LLC, a public affairs firm serving associations and nonprofits and small businesses in the U.S. and Asia. She has led political campaigns, law enforcement contract negotiations, and revenue diversification efforts and implemented public affairs projects in Texas and Florida. She directs National Coalition Building Institute’s Texas chapter, which provides continuing education for diversity trainers, offers Welcoming Diversity/Prejudice Reduction workshops, and teaches the Working Through Controversial Issues process in methods recognized by the U.S. President’s Commission on Race.

Ms. Lanham is past Chairwoman of the Capital Area Council of Governments Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, which prioritizes grant funding on behalf of the Governor of the State of Texas for essential services such as domestic violence shelters and law enforcement for 10 counties in Central Texas. She is past Chair of the City of Austin Commission for Women, which advises the city manager and council on matters affecting women and the families who are connected to them.

Her volunteer work has included leadership to the Central Texas chapter of the American Society for Public Administration; she has moderated discussions on democracy, social security and medicare with Texas Forums/Future Forums and served as a deputy voter registrar.

She earned her master’s degree in public affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005. Prior to her studies in public policy and administration, she managed events at the University of North Texas College of Music’s Murchison Performing Arts Center.

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James Chao

Chairman of Board of Directors of Westlake Chemical Corporation

James Chao, Chairman of Board of Directors of Westlake Chemical Corporation

James Chao is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Westlake Chemical Corporation, an international manufacturer and supplier of petrochemicals, polymers, and fabricated products with headquarters in Houston, Texas.

Mr. Chao has over 40 years of global experience in the petrochemicals and downstream industries. Mr. Chao, along with his brother, Mr. Albert Chao, assisted their father, Mr. Ting Tsung Chao, in founding Westlake Chemical Corporation in the U.S., Titan Chemicals Corporation Bhd. in Malaysia, and Suzhou Huasu Plastics Co. Ltd. in China. He served as Westlake’s President and Titan’s Managing Director from their inceptions in 1985 and 1988, respectively. He served as Titan’s Executive Chairman and Director from 2003 to the end of 2010, when Titan was divested.

Mr. Chao’s civic and community service includes serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of Baylor College of Medicine, the Board of Trustees for KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), Houston, the Advisory Board of the Chazen Institute of International Business, and the Board of Overseers at Columbia Business School. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Society of Chemical Industry.

Mr. Chao received his Bachelor of Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School. He lives in Houston with his wife Lydia. They have three adult children.

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Jonathan Strum

JD, Attorney

Jonathan Strum, JD, Attorney

Jonathan Strum has a wide array of experience in the legal, financial, and business sides of investment and capital markets issues.

Recently, he was Vice President and General Counsel of Siraj Capital, Ltd., a merchant investment firm based in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, and was Of Counsel to Patton Boggs LP, an international law firm based in Washington, D.C.

Previously, Mr. Strum was the U.S. director of an international venture capital fund, where his responsibilities included raising capital and guiding companies through the initial growth process – including applications for U.S. government grants.

Mr. Strum has negotiated and structured investment and financing from international institutions, venture capital firms, and SBICs on behalf of start-up technology companies, established companies, foreign governments, and business entities, and he has coordinated multilateral project finance while advising on the establishment of and financing for overseas projects in the U.S., Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Mr. Strum is experienced in Islamic finance, asset-backed securitization, capital markets, and general international finance activities, having handled negotiations with major securities firms, venture capital firms, offshore banks, and foreign financial institutions and governments.

Mr. Strum has been a frequent commentator and analyst on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, and C-SPAN on Middle East and international issues and is a frequent speaker at international conferences. He was Adjunct Professor of International Law at Georgetown University Law Center for over ten years.

Recent talks include: Central Bank of Indonesia Conference (July 2010); London Sukuk Summit, London, U.K. (July 2009); Islamic Finance at ABS East, Miami, (October 2008); Islamic Finance Global Summit, New York (October 2008); Canadian Institute, Toronto (June 2008); International Insolvency Institute (New York, June 2007); Islamic Finance World, Toronto (May 2007); Spring ABS Conference in Miami (May 2007); and Securitization World MENA Dubai (2006, 2007).

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Matthew Stitzer

JD, Attorney

Matthew Stitzer, JD, Attorney

Matthew L. Stitzer is General Counsel and Vice President of Production at the New York based technology and media company, Daily Burn.

In his previous role, he served as Associate General Counsel of Schroders Investment Management North America Inc., a UK-based investment management firm. At Schroders, Matt worked as lead counsel for Latin America, among various other legal functions.

In his previous role, he served as Associate General Counsel of Schroders Investment Management North America Inc., a U.K.-based investment management firm. At Schroders, Matt worked as lead counsel for Latin America, among various other legal functions.

Matt graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He received his B.A. with distinction in interdisciplinary studies, and later earned his Juris Doctor from University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor.

Matt worked at the New York-based law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, where he specialized in an international legal practice focused on a broad range of corporate transactions in the fields of mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and derivatives.

Prior to law school, Matt worked at the U.S. Department of State in both Washington, D.C. and Florence, Italy. Matt also has significant volunteer experience, including his work with a New York-based NGO focused on humanitarian development work.

Matt was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where his parents taught physiology at the University of Puerto Rico Medical School. He is a native English and Spanish speaker and is fluent in Italian and Portuguese.

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Pi-Hsia Hsiao

Entrepreneur

Pi-Hsia Hsiao, Entrepreneur

Pi-Hsia Hsiao graduated from the National Taipei College of Business and the National Cheng Chi University, Taiwan. She has served as Chief Financial Officer of Fo Guang Shan and as Director of General Services at Pumen High School.

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Victor Manuel Franco

Community Leader

Victor Manuel Franco, Community Leader

Victor M. Franco was born in Mexico and grew up in Compton, California, where he attended local public schools. He graduated from Compton College and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Los Angeles. He also earned an Adult Education Certificate from the University of Southern California and a Certificate in Business Ethics from Pepperdine University. Mr. Franco received an honorary doctorate in philanthropy from Pepperdine University.

During his distinguished career in southern California, Victor Franco has served as Public Information Officer for the Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center for the Developmentally Disabled, Manager of Protocol for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, Director of Corporate Affairs for the Western Region of Miller Brewing Company, and as Vice President for Community/Media Affairs for NBC/Telemundo 52 in Burbank, California.

Mr. Franco has served on the Monrovia City Council, as a Governor’s appointee on the State Workforce Board, as a State Trustee for the California Science Center, and as a member of the Executive Committee of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. He has also served as a member of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, as president of the Irwindale Chamber of Commerce, and as a board member of the Latin Business Association, the Asian Pacific Counseling Center, and as a member of the President’s Circle of Social Work for the University of Southern California. Victor Franco has been a member of the president’s advisory boards of Whittier College and Pepperdine University. He has been the president of the Salesian Boys and Girls Club and the Business Advisory Board of the Pasadena NAACP.

Victor Franco has been honored by many organizations including the USC Mexican-American Alumni Association, Black Business Association of Pasadena, Black American Cinema Society, and Asian American Artists.

As a trustee of University of the West, Mr. Franco serves on the Academic and Student Affairs Committee and the Governance and Nominating Committee.

Victor Franco resides in Pasadena, California.

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