News Release: People, University News

Jun. 2,  2009

All in the Family

News Article ImageWai Poon (left) and his son Nathaniel

From Emory Report

Nathaniel Poon hasn’t won an award since kindergarten. His family, who emigrated from Hong Kong, is not much for compliments, preferring to show love in other ways.

But when the technical project manager at Goizueta Business School won the University’s Award of Distinction this year, Nathaniel’s father, Wai Poon, couldn’t help but broadcast the news.
And word traveled fast.

Poon, incidentally, is a mail clerk at the Office of Undergraduate Admission.

“It is a big achievement, a great achievement,” he said. “We are proud of him.”

Nathaniel is among a dozen employees selected for the University’s highest staff honor, recognizing outstanding contributions to the Emory community. A key player in upgrading Goizueta’s first wireless network and expanding the school’s global platform to encompass 70 countries, “Nathaniel has consistently solved problems through technological innovation,” his supervisor, Barbara Maaskant, wrote in his nomination letter.

Nathaniel was formally recognized at a reception attended by President Jim Wagner and received a $1,000 award. He is using the money to take his parents to Disney World, his first vacation in two years.

The Poons and Emory go way back.

At age 16, Nathaniel moved to the U.S. to live with an aunt and take advantage of the educational opportunities. When he was scouting for universities as an undergraduate, his father encouraged him to look at Emory based on its reputation for strong pre-health offerings.

Then when Poon and his wife moved to Atlanta from Hong Kong — following a 10-year separation from their son — Nathaniel (’97C–’99PH) suggested that his father apply for a job at Emory.

Later, when Nathaniel was dissatisfied working in the corporate side of public health, Poon recommended that he return to his alma mater.

Three years ago, Nathaniel became a permanent employee at Goizueta and Poon passed along a bit of advice: “A memo is not from God. You have to follow up and monitor the progress.”

That strong work ethic was internalized, recalled Nathaniel, who shares his father’s quiet, low-key personality. “I wasn’t expecting anything,” he said of his nomination.

Nathaniel lives with his parents in Lilburn, but he refuses to carpool to work with his dad. The pair has different work schedules, and “I don’t want him to touch my radio.”

Occasionally, they will wave hello at a campus event like Staff Fest or Commencement.
At night, they reunite for dinner to discuss their days in their native Cantonese.

Nathaniel “is definitely hard-working,” said his father, who has worked for Emory since 2001 after retiring as a post office manager in Hong Kong. “He made his path his own way.”

After all, Poon knows that while a memo may not be from God, his son surely is. In Hebrew, Nathaniel literally means “God has given.”

To celebrate Nathaniel’s accomplish-ment, Poon is treating him to The Oceanaire for a seafood celebration.
He will give him a pat on the back without saying a word. And his son will know.

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