Sheldon Pang says he owes much to Prof. Bill Peake and his wife, Helen, who extended much love to him when he came to MIT. “They gave me a home away from home,” says Pang, who recently established a memorial fund in honor of Helen Peake, who died last summer.
Pang grew up in China during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, a tragic period for the Chinese people. He was taken from his parents at age eight and sent to work in a rice field. For 10 years, the universities and libraries were ordered shut. “My childhood dream was only to read,” says Pang, who recalls finding on the street a torn English dictionary that began with C and ended with W. “That dictionary played a big role in my knowledge of English until I was 18.”
When Mao died in 1976, doors to the schools swung open, and Pang went to Zhejiang University to study engineering. In 1983, he added a master’s in biomedical engineering from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, then went to MIT, where in 1988 he earned a Sc.D. in electrical engineering and computer science. For three years, he worked at MIT’s Research Lab of Electronics. He is now senior vice president of AIG Trading Group in Greenwich, Ct., a company that trades foreign exchange, bonds, gold, and oil.
“To this day,” Pang is saying, “the one who had the most influence on me, other than my parents, was Bill Peake. He taught me science, how to speak and write English, and how to be a decent human being. The impact he and Helen had on me was tremendous.
“Helen knew my parents were 10,000 miles away and I was alone. She treated me like her son. She invited me to her house every holiday. When I got married as a student, she held a dinner reception for 100 guests at her home. She gave us used furniture and a washing machine, and she gave our first son $500 for college.
“She was an exceptional, warm, wonderful human being. I learned a lot from her,” he says, “mostly that happiness does not come from doing things for yourself but from doing things for others.”