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Undergraduate Humanitarian Honored

Ryan community service prize recognizes young leader who turns ideas into reality

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May 18, 2010 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

Meixi Ng
Meixi Ng

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University student Meixi Ng, whose humanitarian advocacy on campus, locally and abroad belies her young age, is the first recipient of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Prize for Community Service.

Last summer, Ng served as the first undergraduate intern of the United Nations Interagency on Human Trafficking in Bangkok, Thailand, where she proposed a new counter-trafficking framework for Cambodia. She co-founded an international humanitarian organization that benefits children in Southeast Asia. On campus, she co-founded the Northwestern Engagement Coalition. And she serves as a community consultant for Evanston Township High School.

"One of the many leadership skills Ng possesses is her ability to develop an idea and make it a reality," said Nick Seamons, assistant director of International Student Services. "Her motivation and excitement are infectious."

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Prize for Community Service honors a student who exemplifies leadership and service through participation in University and community activities, and the recipient receives a cash award of $5,000. The prize recognizes Patrick Ryan's 14 years of service as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Northwestern University, as well as Patrick's and Shirley's extraordinary voluntarism and commitment to Northwestern and the Chicago community. (See biographical sketches of Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan at end of story.)

Patrick Ryan, a distinguished civic and business leader, is a Northwestern alumnus (EB59 and H09); Shirley Ryan (WCAS61), his wife, also is a Northwestern graduate.

Consistently named to the Dean's List, Ng will graduate with a double major in the School of Education and Social Policy and international studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Her minor is in communication sciences and disorders.

A native of Singapore, Ng co-founded The Amber Initiative, a youth-led organization that advocates to make positive changes for youth in their communities. Working throughout Southeast Asia, the organization implements activities that include a mentoring program for disadvantaged Singaporean youth and an art competition for children living in the red-light district of Calcutta, India.

On campus, Ng also co-founded the International Students Association and the Northwestern World Cup. She has spent spring breaks volunteering in Ecuador and Guatemala and is facilitating a future student trip to Peru to build a community shelter. As a community consultant for Evanston Township High School, she helps build service-learning curricula. She also tutors elementary school students weekly and is a swim coach for the Special Olympics.

"She has the fine-tuned ability to manage multiple priorities and ongoing projects, all while maintaining academic excellence," said Seamons.

Ng recently received a 2010 Circumnavigators Club Foundation Around-the-World Travel-Study Grant. This summer she will travel to many countries, including Guatemala, Singapore, Ghana, South Africa and Australia to visit schools and conduct research on education in marginalized communities.

More information on the Ryans:

Patrick G. Ryan is one of Chicago's most prominent business and civic leaders and headed up Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. He is founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Ryan Specialty Group and serves as chairman and chief executive officer of World Sport Chicago. He stepped down last year after 14 years as chair of Northwestern University's Board of Trustees and remains an active member of the board. A Northwestern alumnus, Ryan is the founder of Aon Corporation -- a global leader in risk management, insurance and human capital consulting -- and was its executive chairman until retiring in 2008.

That year Ryan was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious honorary societies and independent research centers, reflecting his many contributions to higher education. In 2009, he was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Northwestern. Ryan is the director of the Chicago Bears Football Club. Among his numerous honors are Brigham Young University's International Executive of the Year Award, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Award and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Chicago Leadership Award; and he was inducted into the International Insurance Society Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Chicago Business Hall of Fame and past president of the Economic Club of Chicago.

Shirley Welsh Ryan was appointed by two sitting U.S. presidents to The President’s Council on Disability in Washington. She has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of children's physical and sensory development. Shirley is co-founder of Pathways Awareness and Pathways Center, which promote early detection and intervention to ensure children’s physical and sensory development. Pathways has provided more than 8,000 pediatric therapists with post-graduate training. Shirley sits on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and received the esteemed Council's Global Leadership Award in 2006. 

A strong believer in education and a graduate of Northwestern University, Shirley sits on the Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame, focusing on the Facilities and Academic Affairs Committees; on the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Foundation on Education; and the Inner City Teaching Corps (ICTC). Shirley founded the Northwestern University Graduate School Learning for Life lectures.  

Shirley is a longtime advocate for the importance of the arts in a civil society. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Lyric Opera, sits on the Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she chairs the Textile Committee, and is a member of the WTTW-PBS Board of Trustees. 

Shirley has worked tirelessly to enrich cultural institutions and civic organizations. Her important work, quietly done, has earned Shirley the respect of leaders in Chicago and throughout the United States. 

Shirley received honorary doctorates from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Catholic Theological Union; the Chicago Harvard Club's “Stateman of the Year Award,” Northwestern University’s “Distinguished Service Award,” Mayor Daley's “Christman Award” and the Sacred Heart Schools award for dedication to community service. 

Shirley and Pat are proud parents of three sons, Corbett, Rob and Pat, and Lydia; and grandchildren, Isabelle, Patrick John and Katelyn Grace.

Topics: People