n the fall of 1850, the wide-eyed, 22-year-old Yung Wing, class of 1854, arrived at Yale, prepared to embark on his undergraduate journey at a campus populated by white Protestant males. Born into a poverty-stricken family in southern China, Yung had dropped out of school at age 12 to support his mother and four siblings. Pure coincidence led Yung to America, but a heavy financial burden weighed on the young Chinese Christian. He turned down a full ride offered to him by missionaries, which would have required him to return to China and serve as a missionary himself upon graduation.
“A pledge of that character would prevent me from taking advantage of any circumstance or event that might arise in the life of a nation like China, to do her a great service,” Yung recalled in “My College Days,” the fifth chapter of his autobiography, “My Life in China and America.” “To be sure, I was poor, but I would not allow my poverty to gain the upper hand and compel me to barter away my inward convictions of duty for a temporary mess of pottage.”