After receiving his PhD, Wong enjoyed early success as a mathematician, earning posts at the University of Alberta, University of Wisconsin, Carnegie Mellon, and eventually the University of Iowa. He married, started a family, and was content with his career as an established academic when his father died.
Although he was reluctant to leave the life he’d built in the United States, Wong nevertheless decided to return to Hong Kong in 1973 and assume the leadership of his father’s business.
Over the next four decades, he led its transformation from a regional construction company into a reputable real estate developer and building contractor. Today the Chinney Group manages assets totaling $2 billion and employs 2,000 people around the world.
Even while dedicating himself to expanding his father’s company, Wong has continued his mathematical research. He has held adjunct professorships at several universities in Hong Kong and published more than 150 papers—cited in excess of 3,000 times—many focusing on oscillation theorems in linear and nonlinear differential equations and functional analysis.
“While devoting significant energies to the business world, James Wong has been a remarkably prolific researcher who has made substantial contributions to mathematics,” says Thomas Soifer, chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy at Caltech. “He’s clearly never lost the passion and joys of scholarship.”
“My philosophy in business, academia, and in life, rests on three foundations: truth, fairness, and freedom,” Wong says. “I have been fortunate in that they have served me well.”