Dr. Fu-Tien Sung, age 87, passed away during his sleep at home in Durham, North Carolina, on Saturday, July 28. He was born on January 20, 1925, in Jinan, China, to the late Ching-Tsai Sung and Shu He. With the onset of World War II, his family like many others relocated several times in the face of the advancing Japanese army. To avoid a complete wartime disruption of his education, his family sent him away in eighth grade to an extremely spartan, Nationalist government-sponsored “school” for refugees. Classes often were conducted without textbooks, and met in dilapidated buildings to avoid the frequent bombings that occurred. After finishing high school and taking college entrance examinations, he was accepted at Northwest Engineering College in Tientsin. When the Allies defeated Japan, he went briefly to his hometown, then returned to Tientsin to resume his studies. In 1949, the Communist forces took over Tientsin; he returned home for a few days and then took a train to Tsingtao, where he boarded a steamer to Shanghai. After one week there, he purchased a ticket on a ship bound for Taiwan. It turned out to be the last ship to leave Shanghai before the Communist forces took control of the city and closed down the port.
Thus Fu-Tien rejoined his family who left China much earlier for Taipei, Taiwan after years of separation. With his scores on the national college entrance exams, he gained a much sought-after place at National Taiwan University, where he earned his B.Sc. in Engineering in 1950. After graduating, he worked for several years, and polished his English with a view to graduate study in the United States. When offered admittance to the University of Colorado, he passed rigorous exams and interviews administered both by the Republic of China and the U.S. governments in order to qualify for a student visa, becoming one of just 100 Chinese from around the world to be granted entry to the U.S. in 1955. The voyage from Taipei to San Francisco on a commercial coal-powered steamship lasted over 50 days, and took its toll: he weighed only 85 pounds upon arrival. He earned his M.S. from the University of Colorado in 1956, and then received a fellowship for doctoral study at Johns Hopkins University. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Engineering, specializing in mechanics, in 1961.
Fu-Tien then joined the faculty of the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa, and subsequently worked as an engineer at Shield Bantam Waverly, Iowa, followed by nineteen years as Chief Engineering Consultant for Grove Manufacturing Company Shady Grove, Pennsylvania, where he designed several systems and components for hydraulic cranes that were patented.
Fu-Tien and Jane Jiunn Ting were married on August 8, 1954 in Taipei, Taiwan. Before retirement in Durham, they lived in Iowa City, Iowa; Chicago, Illinois; Waverly, Iowa; and Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.
A mathematician and engineer by profession, Fu-Tien also had a highly developed aesthetic sense and a deep love of Chinese and Western classical music and art, and he ensured that his children had many opportunities to pursue both science and the arts. He was an avid photographer, and maintained interests in Chinese history and culture, writing several articles on Chinese painting published in a Chinese journal. Late in life he received Christ, and was baptized with his wife, Jane, on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, at Chinese Christian Mission Church in Durham.
We are grateful to God for His grace shown to Fu-Tien long before he came to embrace Christ. We also give thanks for the enduring legacy of his life and character–especially his integrity, humility, lifelong love of education and culture, and his faithful love and sacrificial provision for his wife and family over the course of nearly 58 years of marriage.
Fu-Tien is survived by his wife, Jane Ting Sung; children, Daphne Kelsall and husband Ben of Coatesville, PA, Elizabeth Sung of Gurnee, IL, Felix Sung of Durham, NC, and Grant Sung and wife Nancy of Durham, NC; and grandchildren, Sarah Marie Kelsall, Sheryl Anne Kelsall, Andrew Zong-Yi Sung and Kaela Mae Sung. He is also survived by his sister, Yu-Jiunn Sung, and brother, Yi-Min Sung. He was preceded in death by his sister Yu-Ling Sung.
The visitation and memorial service will be held at Church of the Good Shepherd, 3741 Garrett Road, Durham, NC 27707. The burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Church of the Good Shepherd Building Fund, designating “Memorial” in the memo line and mailed to: Church of the Good Shepherd, 3741 Garrett Road, Durham, NC 27707; or to Alzheimers Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011, or online at: https://act.alz.org/site/Donation2?11461.donation=form1&df_id=11461&pw_id=1821.
Arrangements for the Sung family are under the care of Hall-Wynne Funeral Services. Online condolences: www.hallwynne.com, select “Obituaries.”