William Ding Moy

William Ding Moy (Moy Lan Gee 梅連枝, 1896-1938) was a member of the Class of 1920 (Course II/Mechanical Engineering), and appears to have been the first Chinese American from Boston Chinatown to attend MIT. As a young boy, Moy dreamed of entering "Tech," in the hopes of becoming an engineer. A leader and patriot, Moy helped strengthen ties between the Institute and Boston Chinatown, between the US and China.

 

William Ding Moy ca. 1915 in Boston School Cadets uniform. Image courtesy Beverly Wing.

chinese american roots

William Ding Moy, aka, William Moy-Ding, was born in Boston on July 21, 1896, the son of Moy Ni Ding (1857-1931), an immigrant from Taishan (pronounced "Hoy Shun" in Moy's dialect), China, who had risen through hard work to become known as the "grand old man" of Boston's Chinatown. Growing up in Chinatown, William attended the Quincy School and joined the “Chinese Boy Scouts” (Troop 34, founded 1912), led by his father. A stellar student, Moy entered Boston's prestigious English High School, one of its first Chinese pupils, and went on to become President of the Class of 1916. At English, Moy joined the crew team and the School Cadets (3rd regiment), winning prizes as “Sergeant Ding” in the military drill exhibitions of 1914 and 1915. When interviewed by the Boston Globe, Moy proclaimed:

"I have never attended any other but a public school and feel that I am as much an American, imbued with American ideals, as any of my classmates." (Boston Daily Globe, May 02, 1915, 60)

Moy dreamed of entering "Tech," with the hopes of becoming a civil engineer, a profession he believed "[held] out many opportunities for young men." It would be "the proudest moment of [his] life," he told the Globe, if he could pass the exams to enter MIT. 

Successfully gaining admission to MIT, Moy was married in the summer of 1916 to Miss Rose Lee of New York, Cambridge Mayor Edward Barry being a guest of honor at the Boston wedding. 

Matriculating at MIT in 1916, "Billy," as he was known, majored in Mechanical Engineering, commuting to campus from his home at 15 Essex St. in Boston. Moy was a member of the MIT Chinese Club, the Cosmopolitan Club, the Mechanical Engineering Society, the English High School Club, the Rifle Club, and the Aeronautical Engineering Club. Ever the athlete, Moy rowed crew for his class team, and played on the famous, "star" MIT Chinese soccer team that formed ca. 1918. He also won a swimming trophy at the Chinese Students' Alliance Eastern Section summer conference at Andover in 1916. During World War I, Moy served in the “Technology ROTC," registering for the draft along with other classmates in June 1918. By this time, he had moved to 19 Harrison Avenue, still within Boston Chinatown.

Under the direction of Prof. A. L. Townsend, Moy wrote his thesis on "The Properties of Ramie Fabric As Covering for Airplane Wings," with classmate Chun Ki Kee of Business and Engineering Administration as a second author. Samples of ramie were imported from China for testing. Along with several other Chinese students, the two thus helped pioneer aviation-related research at MIT.

 Chinese Soccer Team,  MIT Technique 1920 . Image courtesy MIT Archives and Special Collections.  

Chinese Soccer Team, MIT Technique 1920. Image courtesy MIT Archives and Special Collections.  

In the Broader Community

Beyond MIT, Moy continued to be active in the Chinese YMCA, performing in that association’s annual play in 1920 with students from other local universities. He was also active in the F.F. Fraternity, the oldest Chinese fraternity in the US, founded 1910. Known as "Big Bill," Moy was initiated into the fraternity in 1915, and was remembered by F.F. ["Flip Flap"] Brothers as "the most passionate and high-spirited Flip of his time.”

  Chinese Boy Scouts on Oxford St. in Boston Chinatown, ca. 1938. Image courtesy Beverly Wing.

Chinese Boy Scouts on Oxford St. in Boston Chinatown, ca. 1938. Image courtesy Beverly Wing.

engineer and Community leader

After graduation Moy worked as an engineer and designer at various companies, including Stone and Webster, Worthington Pumps Machinery Corporation, and Wellers Manufacturing Company. He continued to be active in the community and to maintain MIT connections. An article in the Technology Review from 1921 recognized Moy for his efforts in reviving the Chinese Boy Scouts' Troop, serving as Scoutmaster, with several other MIT Chinese students or alums as his assistants. The article further described Moy as a successful businessman in Boston, running a chain of restaurants, and married with two children. Moy was also active with the Chinese American Citizens’ Association. 

At some point, Moy moved to the Chicago area, where he worked for an iron factory. Then, in 1925/26, Moy decided to go to China, where he joined the Nationalist Chinese Army and played a noted role in the Northern Expedition, a military campaign led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in 1926-28 to unify China under Nationalist rule. Moy was appointed Chief Engineer of the Engineers Training Corps for the Chinese Nationalist Government and taught at the Whampoa Military Academy, overseeing the manufacture of arms for Nationalist (KMT) forces.

Moy returned to Boston at the end of 1927, living with family on Harrison Avenue in Chinatown and continuing to be active in the community while developing his career. Moy worked as a civil engineer, served as a court interpreter, and participated in American organizations such as the Kiwanis Club in addition to various Chinese American groups. Continuing his leadership in the Boy Scouts (Troop 34), Moy also served as a Committeeman for Ship 35 of the Sea Scouts. He remained dedicated to the F.F. Fraternity, and served as Chairman of the US Chapter in 1930-31. 

Fairest Fraternity

By William Ding Moy

On a clear misty night

Shines forth our crescent moon,

Its friendly beckoning light

Our guide and constant boon.

Forever rising ever higher

Its quite silver hue

Serene upon the starry sky

Keeps peace and progress full in view.

Brothers, we gather here once more

Beneath this lovely sky

To pledge our bond forever

To ideals strong and high,

For time will seal our friendship

Even to eternity.

We'll ne’er forget dear Flip, Fairest Fraternity.

Through far apart, through time and tide,

Treading life's devious way,

We'll meet in thought, what’d or betide,

As we have done this day.

To honor good old fellowship

With hearts as staunch and true,

We'll sing once more the song of Flip,

Alone old, forever now.

(Wan, Edward I. 2003. History of F.F. Fraternity: Evolution of the First Chinese Fraternity in the United States [1910-2002], 73.)

During the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1932, Moy returned to China to serve as a Lt. Col. of Engineers for the Chinese Army. In 1933, Moy was back in Boston, working actively in the Chinatown community and in organizations such as the Chinese Masonic Association. Moy helped to found the Friends of China, an organization dedicated to promoting Sino-American cultural and social relations, and, working together with other prominent Bostonians (Boston University's Pres. Daniel Marsh, Judge Emma Fall Schofield, the Rev. William Leslie), served as the group’s Chinese Secretary. By 1935, Moy was President of Boston’s Chinese American Merchants’ Association, a position that granted him the informal title of "Mayor of Chinatown." In 1937, he was active in the efforts of Boston Chinese to raise funds for China after the Japanese invasion. As Co-Chair of the All-New England Chinese Patriotic Association, Moy helped author a telegram to President Roosevelt and Chinese President Chiang Kai-shek, condemning Japanese actions and urging US moral support for China.

At the time of his death in 1938, Moy resided at 18 Harrison Avenue, and was set to receive an MBA from Boston University. One of his sons, Martin Lorenzo Moy, was a sophomore at MIT, and the other, Wesley Kwong Moy, was attending St. Stephen's College in Hong Kong. Moy was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Boston. An obituary in the Boston Globe called Moy “one of the most cultured and respected members of his race in America." It is striking that whereas the Globe had depicted the youthful Moy as a symbol of assimilation, the paper now portrayed him, at the end of his life, as a representative of "his race," "a leader and friend to the Heavenly Kingdom."

F.F. Fraternity brothers remembered "Bro. Bill" for his sincerity, leadership, and dedication to service. "His affection for the Fraternity was evident from the Fraternity songs, poems, and essays he wrote to rekindle the Fraternity spirit." "Fairest Fraternity" is a sample poem composed by Moy in the 1930s:

 

 


Notes: Immigrating to the US in 1876, Moy Ni Ding settled first in Philadelphia and then in Boston, where he became a successful merchant, a Chinese Mason, the founder of the Boston Chinese Merchants’ Association, and a prominent leader of the Chinese community. 

Sources: 

He was also known as William Moy Ding. MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years, 1931.

"MOY NI DING DIES IN CHINATOWN HERE." Daily Boston Globe, 1931, Jun 06.

"MOY NI DING DIES IN CHINATOWN HERE." Daily Boston Globe, 1931, Jun 06. Moy Ni Ding’s second wife, Phyllis, was also active in the community and served as the vice president of a Chinese Christian women's association. See also http://www.mocavo.com/List-of-Residents-of-Boston-Ward-3-1929-Volume-3/2...http://www.mocavo.com/List-of-Residents-of-Boston-Ward-7-1909-Volume-7/8....

William May Ding [sic], U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Registration State: Massachusetts; Registration County: Suffolk; Roll: 1684776; Draft Board: 05, "SERGT DING'S SECOND PRIZE." Boston Daily Globe, May 02, 1915.

"WILLIAM B. SNOW IS GUEST OF HIS 'BOYS'." Daily Boston Globe, 1935, Jun 14.

"COS A AND F WIN FIRST PRIZES." Boston Daily Globe, Apr 28, 1915. "SERGT DING'S SECOND PRIZE." Boston Daily Globe,May 02, 1915.

"SERGT DING'S SECOND PRIZE." Boston Daily Globe, May 02, 1915.

"SERGT DING'S SECOND PRIZE." Boston Daily Globe, May 02, 1915.

"SERGT DING'S SECOND PRIZE." Boston Daily Globe, May 02, 1915, 60.

Cambridge Sentinel, Volume XIII, Number 41, 26 August 1916. MIT General Catalogue, 1916, 488.

Moy-Ding, William. The properties of ramie fabric as covering for airplane wings/by William Moy-Ding and Ki Kee Chun. 1920. Institute Archives - Noncirculating Collection 3|Thesis M.E. 1920 B.S.

Lillian Chen Fong, "The Boston Chinese Y.M.C.A. Entertainment and Reception," Christian China, vol. VI, no. 7 (May-June, 1920), 455.

Wan, Edward I. 2003. History of F.F. Fraternity: Evolution of the First Chinese Fraternity in the United States (1910-2002) = [Ji lan]. U.S.A.: s.n.], 17.

Wan, Edward I. 2003. History of F.F. Fraternity: Evolution of the First Chinese Fraternity in the United States (1910-2002) = [Ji lan]. U.S.A.: s.n.], 48, 53.

MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years, 1931.

"Technology Chinese Active in Boy Scouts Work," Technology Review, vol. 23, no. 4 (November 1921), 571, RAINBOW TROOP OF SCOUTS OF BOSTON COMPOSED ENTIRELY OF CHINESE BOYSDaily Boston Globe, 1931, Jan 15.

"Chinese-American Citizens’ Association Has Banquet," Boston Daily Globe, 1921, Aug 21, 6.

"Chinese Upheaval Finds Technology Graduate Leader: William Moy-Ding ‘20 Now Active in Nationalist Rebellion," The Tech, February 7, 1927, volume XLVII, no. 1, 1. MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years, 1931, Wan, Edward I. 2003. History of F.F. Fraternity: evolution of the first Chinese fraternity in the United States (1910-2002) = [Ji lan]. U.S.A.: s.n.], 53-54.

"OLD CHINA BURIAL RITES FOR COL. MOY." Daily Boston Globe, Aug 15, 1938.

MANY AT FUNERAL OF CHENG FONG.” Daily Boston Globe, Oct 07, 1929, Wan, Edward I. 2003. History of F.F. Fraternity: Evolution of the First Chinese Fraternity in the United States (1910-2002) = [Ji lan]. U.S.A.: s.n.], 77.

700 Chinese and Americans Guests at Wedding Banquet.” Daily Boston Globe, 1936, Dec 22.

Friends of China Inc, Receives First Charter,” Daily Boston Globe 1933, May 25, 15, “CHINESE MASONS HONOR WAR HEROES,” Daily Boston Globe, Sep. 19, 1934.

"THREE NOTED CHINESE WILL VISIT BOSTON." Daily Boston Globe, Apr 29, 1933.

"CHINESE TRAVELERS VISIT GOV CURLEY." Daily Boston Globe, Sept. 21, 1935.

"CHINESE WILL SEEK FULL FUND QUOTA." Daily Boston Globe, Aug. 28, 1937,

"MORAL SUPPORT TO CHINA URGED." Daily Boston Globe, Aug 30, 1937.

"Boston University's Summer Graduates," Daily Boston Globe, Aug. 14, 1938, B18. 

"Col. William Moy." Daily Boston Globe, Aug 14, 1938. Martin was also initiated into the F.F. Fraternity that year. He later received his BS in Accounting from Boston University. Wan, Edward I. 2003. History of F.F. Fraternity: Evolution of the First Chinese Fraternity in the United States (1910-2002) = [Ji lan]. U.S.A.: s.n.], 85.

"OLD CHINA BURIAL RITES FOR COL. MOY." Daily Boston Globe, Aug 15, 1938.

"OLD CHINA BURIAL RITES FOR COL. MOY." Daily Boston Globe, Aug 15, 1938.

Wan, Edward I. 2003. History of F.F. Fraternity: Evolution of the First Chinese Fraternity in the United States (1910-2002) = [Ji lan]. U.S.A.: s.n.], 54.

Wan, Edward I. 2003. History of F.F. Fraternity: Evolution of the First Chinese Fraternity in the United States (1910-2002) = [Ji lan]. U.S.A.: s.n.], 73.