Tibet Foundation

Foundation Chairman Phuntsog Wangyal receives an Honorary Fellowship from SOAS, University of London

Jul 31, 2014

This News item expired on Dec 31, 2014.

Expired news items remain listed in our News archive, however the information may no longer be accurate.
Please do contact the office if you require any clarification.

Recognising his 'significant contribution towards education, health-care and economic and spiritual development amongst Tibetan communities across Asia'.

Tibet Foundation is delighted that Phuntsog Wangyal has received an Honorary Fellowship from the School of Oriental and African Studies - better known as SOAS - recognising the significant contribution that Phuntsog has made 'towards education, health-care and economic and spiritual development amongst Tibetan communities across Asia'. The citation and acceptance speeches made by Dr Nathan Hill of SOAS and Phuntsog are below: 

Citation for the award

By Dr Nathan W. Hill; lecturer in Tibetan and linguistics at SOAS.

"Chairman, ladies, gentleman and colleagues, it is an honour and a great pleasure to present to you Phuntsog Wangyal.

Phuntsog Wangyal is the chairman of Tibet Foundation, a UK charity that has made a significant contribution toward the education, health-care, material wellbeing and cultural vibrancy of Tibetan communities across Asia.

Mr Wangyal has a remarkable biography, during the entire course of which he has served his country and its people with tirelessly perspicacity. Born in Tibet in 1944, Phuntsog became a monk and studied Buddhism during his youth. At the age of 16 he became caught up in the widespread rebellion against Tibet's annexation to China, and in 1959 he escaped Tibet for India via an arduous overland journey.

He graduated from Delhi and Jawaharlal Universities with an M.A and M.Phil. in Politics and International Relations, after which he became the Assistant Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala.

In 1973 Phuntsog Wangyal came to London where he earned an M.Phil. in 1976 here at SOAS under the supervision of Professor David L. Snellgrove. Following the reforms in China under Deng Xiaopeng, in 1980 Phuntsog Wangyal returned to Tibet as a member of a pivotal fact-finding delegation sent at the request of the 14th Dalai Lama. The following year he was appointed the UK Representative of the Dalai Lama, establishing the Office of Tibet.

However, feeling that the political controversies surrounding the status of the PRC's annexation of Tibet were stymieing his efforts to simultaneously promote the welfare of the Tibetan people and the preservation of their cultural heritage, Phuntsog Wangyal resigned from involvement in politics to found the Tibet Foundation in 1985.

As chairman of the Tibet Foundation, Phuntsog Wangyal is probably the most effective, energetic, and beneficial person working in the charity sector on Tibet related issues. For nearly thirty years the Tibet Foundation has worked in the areas of education, healthcare, economic development and cultural revitalization.

The Foundation has funded the education of Tibetans both within the PRC and abroad, supported the creation of small businesses, provided disaster relief, as well as medical training and treatment.

In addition to these humanitarian efforts the Foundation has also brought dance and music troupes from Tibet, India and Mongolia to the UK, promoted the preservation of traditional Tibetan architecture, funded and overseen the cataloguing of all Tibetan Buddhist paintings in Mongolian collections, sponsored hundreds of Mongolian students to study in Buddhist monasteries in India.

In recognition of these achievements, in July 2009 Phuntsog Wangyal received the “Friendship Medal” from the Mongolian President. All of the Tibet Foundation’s efforts are carried out with the explicit blessing of its patron the Dalai Lama, and with the full consent and participation of the relevant government authorities, including in the PRC.

In the atmosphere of increased tensions following the 2008 Tibetan uprising the Tibet Foundation is one of very few charities to operate with its activities uncurtailed. This rare circumstance is creditable to the tact and diplomacy of Phuntsog Wangyal and the years of effort invested on the ground.

Chairman, it is my privilege now to present Phuntsog Wangyal for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of the School, and to invite him to address this assembly".

Phuntsog's Acceptance Speech

"Madam President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am deeply honoured that the School should grant me this award, and it is with considerable delight and profound gratitude that I receive it. I believe this is in recognition of my humble contribution to the welfare of the Tibetan people and the preservation of their culture, and that such a recognition reflects the communal nature of academia and charitable work rather than that of one single individual.

I would like to pay tribute to all those who have inspired and supported me for many years to be able to work for the benefit of those needing help the most. In particular I would like to take this opportunity to pay special tribute to Mr Hugh Richardson and Professor Snellgrove who guided me through my studies at SOAS, Mr Patrick Gaffney who helped me to establish the Tibet Foundation, and the other trustees, staff members and sponsors who have always been very supportive of my work for the Foundation. Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Riga for her unshakable support to me. Without their cooperation and dedication Tibet Foundation could not have achieved what it has in making a real difference to the lives of so many people.

For a very long time now SOAS has played a symbolic role as a global platform seeking to represent and create dialogue across cultures, and pursuing the fair and accurate representation of some of the most marginalized and precious communities on earth. Notably the institution has had a long and engaging discourse with Tibetans, and it is with great honour that I feel recognised as part of its journey. Not only can we look back at a colourful and gracious history at the University but also to its future as a key player in fostering cross-cultural understanding, tolerance and awareness.

I would like to make a special mention here of Professor Tadeusz Skorupski, Dr Philip Denwood and Dr Nathan Hill who have taken such an active interest in promoting Tibetan studies at SOAS over many years.

In conclusion, I pay homage to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his blessing, and express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have given full cooperation and generous support to the work of the Foundation. It is my sincere hope that with such dialogue, learning and understanding we can continue into the future and foster knowledge and education for generations to come.

Madam President, thank you once again for honouring me with this award.

Thank you"