SANFORD - Her business card read "Guan Wang, Instructor of Confucius Classroom, Central Carolina Community College," and those statements were true. But such simple facts can't come close to capturing her actual role at the college -- or in Sanford, her adopted hometown.
As the English professor from the University of Sichuan in Chengdu, China, concluded her three-year tenure leading CCCC's center for Chinese language and culture, she was remembered more as an ambassador.
At a farewell reception just before Memorial Day, a procession of local officials stepped behind the podium to express their heartfelt admiration and thanks.
Sanford Mayor Chet Mann described Wang as "a great professor, a great human being and a lovely person" before reading an official city proclamation calling her "a gracious servant of the community." And Bob Joyce, who directs economic development for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, recalled how Wang helped guide local officials as they formalized Sanford's sister-city relationship with Yixing, a bustling metropolitan community west of Shanghai known worldwide for its elegant pottery teapots.
"Having Professor Wang here to teach us a little bit about culture and Chinese language certainly helps us build partnerships for the future," Joyce told those assembled to celebrate the occasion. "And that's the way that we will be economically successful and viable as a community."
Wang followed Ling Huang and Shuya Che as the third visiting instructor for CCCC's Confucius Classroom, an educational partnership created seven years ago with N.C. State University's Confucius Institute and Nanjing Normal University, another educational institution farther west from Yixing. The Confucius Classroom promotes an intercultural exchange grounded in Chinese language courses, but offering a wide range of cultural events and activities as well.
Not long after the farewell reception, Wang was asked what she thinks will be her longest lasting contribution to Sanford. There were many to choose from and she began by mentioning her students, who were eager to learn the Chinese language and connect with a culture growing in influence here and around the globe. Then there were the Chinese artists and musicians she helped bring to Sanford so they could share their perspectives and talent.
But what Wang emphasized was far more intimate. She talked about encouraging open communication among Chinese and American people and how that could lead to stronger relationships in business and government. Then she quickly turned to the Great Wall Society, a student club she created at the college to extend an understanding of Chinese culture beyond the classroom and into the community.
"It's my wish for this club to last as long as the Great Wall in China," she said.
When it was time for her farewell address, the Chengdu native stepped in front of her students and friends dressed in red, a color used in Chinese culture to express a sense of celebration, happiness and joy, and she started by recounting lessons learned from her parents and grandparents -- including virtues such as kindness, diligence, and patience.
She talked about how she occasionally felt lonely far from family, but why it was a bit easier when friends in Sanford, her second hometown, treated her as one of their own. She recounted her work at the college and took special pride displaying some of her students' final projects using film, music, and even original games to express their understanding of Chinese language and culture.
When Wang steps back into her classroom in China, she will return with an appreciation for what she found on this side of globe. The trees and fresh air. Museums and festivals. And, most of all, the diverse individuals that made her adopted home so unique. "I will bring back with me the beautiful memories, great experiences and, most importantly, appreciation for many people that I will never forget," she said.
In other words, the professor still sounded as much like an ambassador as she did an instructor.
For more information on Central Carolina Community College, visit www.cccc.edu.
Guan Wang, Central Carolina Community College Confucius Classroom Instructor, receives a plaque from Sanford Mayor Chet Mann expressing the City of Sanford's appreciation of her generous support and dedicated service during her three years at the college.
Guan Wang, Central Carolina Community College Confucius Classroom Instructor, presents two works of Chinese calligraphy to CCCC President Dr. T. Eston Marchant. Both represent zodiac signs for the dragon, a symbol in Chinese culture associated with authority and power. One is an ancient form urging everyone to remember important values of the past and the other is a modern form to symbolize a bright future ahead.