January 26, 2024 By Andrew Ramspacher, fpa5up@virginia.edu

‘Iconic’ UVA Figure Passes. His Lasting Legacy Is Rooted in Jefferson and Sampson

He came from China and became a beloved professor, developing a passion for lifelong learning and Wahoo basketball.

Ching-hsien Huang’s passion for UVA began when he was hired as a biochemistry professor in the late 1960s. Decades later, Wahoo spirit lives on in his sons and grandchildren. His grandson, Bryant Huang, was named after former Cavalier basketball star Bryant Stith. (Contributed photo)

The intensity with which University of Virginia alumnus Tien-Wei “Tw” Huang watches his alma mater play basketball has, in the past, caused his wife to question his sanity. 

“Why do you care so much?” she’d asked him. 

“I don’t know,” he’d tell her, “I guess it’s in my DNA.”

Huang graduated from UVA in 1999 with an economics degree, but his passion for the University began long before he first entered Grounds as a student. That much was made clear in a recent article he wrote for Medium.com, “The Passing of an Iconic Figure in the History of the University of Virginia: Ching-hsien Huang.”



The story highlights the achievements of Tw’s late father – among them, being a pioneer for Asian professors at UVA – while also illustrating Ching-hsien’s lasting marks on his sons, Tw and Tien-tsin. 

In lieu of sending flowers, Tw asked in the article for supporters to consider donating to a Jefferson Scholarship newly created in the family’s name that will be awarded to minorities who excel in science. 

Ching-hsien’s “legacy is here in Charlottesville,” Tw wrote, “where this scholarship will pave the way for the next generation of students who will continue my parents’ legacy at UVA – a legacy where learning never stops, and you cheer for UVA basketball like your life depends on it.”

Ching-hsien’s introduction to Charlottesville and UVA came in 1967, when he accepted an assistant professor position in the biochemistry department. Tw said his father, a China native, faced early racial tensions in their new town – an ugly side effect of the Vietnam War – but always reassured his wife, Laura, they were in the right place. 

“Once they get to know us, they will accept us,” Ching-hsien would tell her. “We just need to give it time.” 

When on Grounds, Ching-hsien Huang, back, enjoyed spending time in the chemistry lab with his students. (Contributed photo)

Ching-hsien and Laura, who also became a professor at UVA, lived in the same Charlottesville house in the Carrsbrook neighborhood from 1975 until they left in 2016 to be closer to their sons on the West Coast. 

Whether as a professor or in an emeritus role, Ching-hsien served the University for five decades, becoming fond of two Wahoo staples: Thomas Jefferson and the men’s basketball program.

Tw said Ching-hsien embodied Jefferson’s philosophy of lifelong learning. In his later years, Ching-hsien, who died Dec. 27 at the age of 88, read books and then translated them from English to Chinese for his family members to enjoy back in his homeland. 

“My dad had a statue of Thomas Jefferson in the house,” Tw said. “And as a kid, he would reference him all the time and quote him. 

“He would talk to us about having even number of hours of academics and physical activity. He just loved the history of everything about UVA.”

Before he departed the area eight years ago, Tw said his father made sure to buy a gravesite for himself and his wife in Monticello Memory Gardens, less than a mile from the historic home of UVA’s founder. 

Huang with family

The Huang family grew to love the Charlottesville area, including time spent at Lake Monticello. (Contributed photo)

“It’s literally the most beautiful spot you can imagine,” Tw said. “You can see the Lawn and everything. It’s special.”

A continuous learner himself, Tw is the chief growth officer for Orb, a community-focused social app that operates out of San Francisco. Tien-tsin, a 1997 UVA alumnus, works in the banking industry. Each has two children of their own. 

Despite their busy schedules, the Huang brothers, as they did under their dad’s guidance, still make sure to catch every Wahoo men’s basketball game. 

“As a child,” Tw wrote in his tribute to his father, “one of my first memories was cheering for Ralph Sampson and UVA. My parents were big basketball fans in Taiwan and they adopted the UVA basketball program as their team. They used to threaten my brother and me that if UVA basketball lost, we would get spanked and grounded.

“I honestly don’t remember if I ever got spanked after a loss, but I do remember cheering for Ralph Sampson and Jimmy Miller as if my life depended on it.” 

In addition to his day job, Tw runs Locker Room Access, a multimedia UVA basketball fan site that was co-founded by former Wahoo stars Justin Anderson and Ty Jerome. The opportunity has allowed Tw to form relationships with different generations of Cavalier greats. 

He said one of Ching-hsien’s greatest treasures was a personalized autographed national championship hat from Tony Bennett. It was on display in his room until the day he died. 

Until the day he died, Ching-hsien Huang treasured his UVA basketball memorabilia, most notably an autographed national championship hat from Tony Bennett. (Contributed photo)

“If I'm being honest,” Tw said, “UVA basketball was really what always drove our conversations. We didn't really talk outside of that. I was calling about sports and games. 

“There's nothing else we have in common. I don’t ask him about biochemistry. He doesn’t ask me about business. We talked about UVA, that was the thing that connected us. It was comforting.”

Before he passed away in a hospital in Fremont, California, he wanted his association with Charlottesville to be forever known. 

His final message to Tw: “Make sure my obituary is in the Daily Progress.”

Media Contact

Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications