Jack Tak Fok Ling, Ph.D., age 73, passed away at home in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday, July 9, 2020. Family and friends felt his warmth, generosity, and compassion. Colleagues admired his passion, energy, and forthrightness. He lived his life with gratitude, and we are grateful to have had him in ours.
Jack was born in Shanghai, China and grew up in Hong Kong. Jack’s intellectual curiosity and broad passion for learning began at an early age. He studied Northern Natural Style Kung-Fu (Zi Ran Men) from Wan Lai Sheng, one of the 5 Northern Kung Fu Tigers, before starting his Wing Chun Kung Fu training with Leung Sheung, Yip Man’s first and most senior student in Hong Kong. Jack spent the next 50 years studying and teaching to propagate his love for Wing Chun, a Chinese fighting art.
In his passion for painting and music Jack learned from well-known masters, including artist Chang Dai-chien, and excelled in playing the Pipa (Chinese guitar) as well as the long and short flutes. He attended Diocesan Boys’ School in Hong Kong. While in high school he won recognition and awards for his brush painting, traditional Chinese music, and Wing Chun, and continued to practice and teach in these disciplines throughout his life.
Jack traveled from Hong Kong to the U.S. as a teen to study. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Indiana University and his doctorate in Clinical-Social Psychology from Duquesne University. He was a student of noted Existential-Phenomenological psychologists and psychiatrists Viktor Frankl, Adrian Van Kaam, Amedeo Giorgi, and Jan van den Berg, and counted Rolf von Eckartsberg as his mentor. Jack also studied civil rights law and critical legal race theory. In his roughly 40-year career he served as dean of students, associate academic dean, diversity director, executive director, and faculty member at higher education institutions including Boston University, Pitzer College at the Claremont Colleges, Skidmore College, and the University of Dayton, where he served as Executive Director of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion until his retirement in 2015. He also worked as a clinical psychologist, diversity-leadership consultant, and an environmental filtration systems contractor.
Jack’s zeal for social justice and change and commitment to confronting injustice were reflected in his volunteer activities, as well. After moving to Wilmington, Jack volunteered at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church Food Pantry. He also served as Co-Chair of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s (OLLI) Diversity and Inclusion Committee and joined OLLI’s Council.
Jack embraced the idea of a complete person that included Chinese brush painting, classical Chinese music, and the literati tradition; Wing Chun martial arts; and competitive bass fishing in addition to intellectual development. He was the epitome of the lifelong student and teacher, and never left his roots and discipline.
Jack is survived by his life partner, Mimi Rayl; his daughter, Allison Ling; his brothers, Victor Ling (Maria) and Frank Ling; his great aunt, Ah Chin Lin; and his cousins, Bob Lam (Baerbel), Cecilia Lanz (Hannes), and Julie Sham, and their families. He was predeceased by his parents T. Y. Ling and Lu Yen and by his daughter, Frances Ling. We will miss his luminous smile.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to: