'She had a great impact on so many of us': Dr Hilary Chung passes away
17 August 2020
Dr Hilary Chung, the inspiring and energetic director of the Global Studies programme at the University of Auckland, has died.
Hilary was so passionate about everything she did and was instrumental in building up our very successful Global Studies programme.
The death of Dr Hilary Chung on Sunday 16 August is being mourned by the University community.
Dr Chung, director and founder of the Global Studies programme in the Faculty of Arts, had been battling cancer for some years.
Dean of Arts, Professor Robert Greenberg, a long-time friend of Dr Chung, wrote in an email to the University’s Arts faculty that Dr Chung had had a great impact on many people.
“Hilary was so passionate about everything she did and was instrumental in building up our very successful Global Studies programme.”
Dr Chung was a fluent Mandarin speaker, an expert in comparative literature and modern Chinese literature as well as gender and representation in literature.
The Faculty of Arts will observe a minute’s silence on 19 August to remember Dr Chung and will work with her partner Trevor and daughter Mia to organise a celebration of her life at the University, once lockdown levels allow.
The 58-year-old’s life had been significantly lengthened, following a terminal diagnosis, by the use of the drug Palbociclib, known as Ibrance. Ibrance prolongs the life of those with metastatic breast cancer but initially Dr Chung had to fundraise for it herself. Once she had had a year’s treatment, it was then subsidised.
In late 2019, Dr Chung told UniNews she was happy to still be busy and working and had been deeply moved by the Give-a-Little campaign that had raised the money she needed for the Ibrance treatment.
“The wonderful thing about Ibrance is that it does not have the debilitating side effects of other treatments.
“I am so grateful to friends, colleagues, students and the many other donors who have enabled me to continue to enjoy comparatively good health,” she said.
The big thing for me is, I’m having the time of my life. Everything I wanted to do is happening. I’m not going to be able to do it for much longer but I don’t think about that.
Dr Chung also supported a number of charities that raised awareness about treatment for people with metastatic breast cancer, the Breast Cancer Foundation, Sweet Louise and the Cancer Society.
She was pleased to see the establishment of the National Cancer Programme in 2019 and additional funding of a range of cancer drugs.
“I’m glad I was able to play a small role in the campaign,” she said.
That included travelling to Wellington to make a speech at the Health Select Committee.
She talked to RNZ’s Noelle McCarthy in an extensive interview about appearing at the Committee.
Dr Chung first received treatment for her cancer in 2015, but when it returned it spread throughout her body. Despite this, she kept positive and physically fit, riding from Avondale to the City Campus and stand-up paddleboarding.
In March 2019 she said: “The big thing for me is, I’m having the time of my life. Everything I wanted to do is happening. I’m not going to be able to do it for much longer but I don’t think about that.
“Physical and mental strength can help you stay alive, if you really want to stay alive badly enough. I really want to. Just because I like what I do. I’m kick-ass resilient but I can’t do what I do without fabulous support.”
She did just that, working to grow the Global Studies programme by 25 percent in 2020.
In late November she said she was looking forward to spending some quiet time with her family at Christmas and to getting on the bike and board.
Professor Greenberg said: “I know what a great impact Hilary had on so many of us and on her students.
“On behalf of the Faculty of Arts and her many friends and colleagues across the University I send Trevor and Mia our deepest condolences. We shall all miss Hilary terribly.”
He shared the poroporoaki (farewell lament) of Faculty of Arts Kaiarahi, Dr Hirini Kaa (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu and Rongowhakaata):
Kua katohia e te ringa kaha o Aituā i tetahi pou whakarae o ngā reo me ngā ahurea.
Nō reira kei hea taku manu tui e tui? Taku kōmako e kō?
Haere atu rā koe e te māreikura e Hilary.
Ko ōu tapuwae ki runga tonu i te ao katoa.
Ko ōu kauwhau e oro tonu ana ki roto i Te Ao Tūhura me ngā ngākau o te tini puta noa.
Haere atu rā e te hoa.
The hand of fate has reached out to a prominent marker of language and culture.
How then shall my birds sing their songs?
Farewell to you our majestical Hilary.
Your footsteps are marked across the world.
Your lectures resonate still in Global Studies and in the hearts of the many.
Farewell to you, our friend.
The University will be holding a celebration of Dr Hilary Chung's life in due course. A notice will appear on the staff intranet.