The St. Louis U high community mourns the death of longtime Chinese teacher Dr. Chingling Tai. Tai served at SLUH for 27 years, starting her tenure in 1987 and retiring in 2014. Tai was known for her devotion to the Chinese community not only at SLUH but in the larger St. Louis area.
Tai gave her everything to the program and made it what it is today. In regards to Global Education at SLUH, Tai is a pioneer in the program through her ability to set up relations with SLUH’s companion school in the Chinese city of Nanjing. Tai also served as the president of the Chinese Cultural Center, and became the vice president of the Organization of Chinese Americans (O.C.A). To read more about her involvement in a larger scale refer to Prep News Volume 78, Issue 27.
Dr. Tai was a loved member of the SLUH community and will be missed by many. Members of the SLUH community that were close to Tai contributed the following sentiments:
Former Assistant Principal for Academics Tom Becvar
“She came in and decided she would take the Chinese program to a whole new level. She was a tough teacher but super nice to her students. Students weren’t going to mess around in her class, but they had a lot of fun being there, it was a place that kids wanted to be. We had a couple of nice teachers there before, but when she came in she decided she was going to make the program grow and she did.
She got involved in so many things and anytime you turned around she was asking you to participate in something. She was a person that made friends with everybody that wanted to and she was always very loyal, no matter if you got to know her. She always thought the most of you. She was just a really nice person who really wanted to be involved with our lives.
When she was at school she pretty much kept to herself in her classroom but she always made it a point to come to see me. We would talk about her family, her son and her daughter, and at all times she wanted the best for them. I think the fact that she took time to come see me and that I would go see her was unusual among the faculty, I don't think there was a lot of people who did that. She made it a point if she walked into the office and I was there to come over and talk to me which was always just really really nice.
Spanish teacher Kate Toussaint
“For the Language Department as a whole she was a pioneer of Global Education. She showed the community what was available to us and who we can communicate with, and that there are really amazing opportunities. For me personally, she was a very strong woman and cultivated a lot of respect everywhere. People really admired her, and she was a wonderful example for me here at SLUH in my early years.
When she retired, SLUH gave her a rocking chair, and she could have something engraved in it. She engraved the words ‘my life, my love,’ and that really struck me. It is profound in the moment because as teachers we give a lot of ourselves and sometimes in the daily routine we get bogged down, but to take a step back and to see that this was her life. She loved teaching Chinese to her students everyday and that was something I really admired about her and it’s something that I try to emulate.”
Russian teacher Rob Chura
“Everybody that worked with her definitely saw an amazing example of devotion, and really being dedicated to the big picture, to a greater good. Every minute of every day she focused on how to make the experience for kids at SLUH in the Chinese program everything it needed to be. She had a vision, she had a drive and dedication to overcome whatever obstacles there were.”
Assistant Principal for Mission Jim Linhares
“Dr. Tai on the one hand was very kind and loving and motivated to serve her students really well. And yeah, it was really tough. She combined a very Jesuit thing of high expectation of mastery, combined with a lot of support and motivation. That’s what I really admired about her. Very kind, very sweet, but she could turn a pretty tough face toward her students and serve them well.”
Vice President of Advancement Sean Agniel
“It's hard to convey what a special person she was. She's a woman of very high expectation . . . she was elegant. She was demanding. Very funny, and very endearing. She was a woman of passion and sophistication. There's so much about the type of person she was, but there's who she was as an individual in the manner in the program. But there's also a sense in which she exemplifies a whole era of SLUH of faculty during some of those years who were tireless in their devotion to students and building their programs. She really established a standard of excellence here at SLUH.”
Current Chinese teacher Yude Huang
“Dr. Tai was a great mentor to me. I also consider her to be my parent in America because without her I wouldn't be where I am now. She was a great resource, not only to the school but also to me. Without her I couldn't be able to do what I do now. It’s hard for me to catch up with her, she was just a great person.
She has been actively involved in organizing so many great cultural events throughout the years. When I took her job I was like ‘Wow, there were so many great things happening with her, how can I fit into this role?’ which was not easy at the beginning because it’s hard to do the same thing she did in the past. We had so many cultural events organized together, and even organized more just to encourage more students to study Chinese. Through her I started to realize that I need to push my students more. She was just a great mentor to me. I miss seeing her in the classroom and also outside of the classroom, as a mentor and a friend too.”
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