Serving up scholarships

You might not recognize Wayne and Rhonda Kwan's names, but it's quite likely you'd recognize their faces, and there's an even greater chance you've eaten a meal they've prepared.

As owners and operators of both the Regent Restaurant and Hiroba, the take-out restaurant in the Students' Union food court, the husband and wife team serve up Chinese cuisine every day of the week.

As Wayne explains, it was students from the U of L who initially planted the idea to start a restaurant at the University.

"In 1986, we started the Regent Restaurant in Lethbridge as a family business. Back then there were already a lot of Asian students attending the U of L. They would often visit the Regent and were always encouraging me to open up a restaurant on campus," Wayne recalls.

Those promptings led the Kwans to purchase and take over Hiroba, a restaurant that was already on campus, but at the time was struggling. It didn't take long for the Kwans to turn Hiroba around, and today, nearly 20 years later, it is known as a popular lunch destination for faculty, staff and students alike.

Through Hiroba, Wayne and Rhonda have developed many lasting relationships with students who are both their customers and sometimes their employees. Watching these students work and study at the same time led the Kwans to think about how they could support students in a decidedly different way.

This past fall, they established the Zhan-Wen Kwan Scholarship for students studying international management. They chose to name the scholarship in honour of Wayne's father, who instilled in his children the importance of
giving back to the community in which they live. After being matched by the Alberta Government's Access to the Future Fund, the Kwans' donation will result in a $60,000 endowment — something that will provide support for students for years to come.

"The world is getting smaller and smaller. With more education, society will have more harmony. Education may not make you rich, but it will provide fulfillment and allow you to make wise decisions," Wayne says. "I hope the scholarship will give students the encouragement to pursue their goals."

As long-time supporters of many worthwhile organizations throughout southern Alberta, Wayne and Rhonda have consistently demonstrated how every gift makes a difference.

"It's important to give whatever amount you can afford — regardless of the size of the gift; it all adds up," says Wayne.

In Japanese, Hiroba means huge, and although Wayne and Rhonda didn't choose the name for the business, it seems entirely fitting for this couple whose lifestyle of generosity is resulting in lasting impacts.


• Both Wayne and Rhonda immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong; Wayne arrived on Christmas day in 1974, and Rhonda came with her family in 1975

• Wayne and Rhonda met when Wayne was working at the Mandarin, a restaurant owned by Rhonda's brother at the time

• In the mid-'70s Wayne attended the U of L and majored in Fine Arts

• Approximately 80 per cent of Hiroba's employees are students