International Student Dormitory Renamed to Honor First Chinese Graduate

Photo courtesy: University of Virginia

The Board of Visitors has passed a resolution to rename a signature international student dormitory from the Lewis House to the Yen House, honoring Yan Huiqing (also known as W.W. Yen) who was a prominent Chinese political figure and UVa graduate.


Yen became an influential figure of the University after becoming the first international student to receive a Bachelor of the Arts degree from UVa in 1900. Yen also holds the distinction of being the first Chinese student to earn any degree from the University. Shortly after graduation, Yen began an impressive political career in China.

The Board of Visitors emphasize his historical impact by stating in their resolution, “Mr. Yen was a highly accomplished diplomat whose exemplary political career included service as China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, first ambassador to the Soviet Union, delegate in the League of Nations, Premier, and acting President”.

Yen served as premier five times as well as simultaneously acting as President of the Republic of China during his last premiership in 1926. During World War II, Yen was placed under house arrest while living in Hong Kong. During this time, he discovered his humanitarian roots and translated and complied “Stories of Old China”.

His time under house arrest affected his health, yet his resolve to fight injustice remained unchanged. A year before his death in 1950, Yen traveled to Moscow in hopes of using his political influence to resolve the ongoing Chinese Civil War.

Yen’s name and legacy will replace Ivey Foreman Lewis. Lewis was dean of UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences from 1946 to 1953. Lewis was a proponent of the discredited scientific theory of eugenics, which pressed for selective breeding to improve the human race. The Yen House will represent a change to a benevolent ideology of justice and civil fortitude.

As the Board of Visitors expressed, “Mr. Yen serves as a distinguished example of a true global scholar committed to cross-cultural exchange, peace, and goodwill”.


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