PING YOK LOO 盧炳玉 (1894-1958)

varsity athlete

A mechanical engineering student, PY Loo was a star wrestler and captain of the MIT wrestling team. Loo was the first Chinese student to lead a varsity athletic team at MIT.

 
 
  Ping Yok Loo, Technique 1917. Image courtesy MIT Archive and Special Collections.

Ping Yok Loo, Technique 1917. Image courtesy MIT Archive and Special Collections.

Ping Yok Loo (Class of 1916, Mechanical Engineering) 盧炳玉


(or Lu Bingyu in Mandarin pinyin), a native of Canton, was raised in Tianjin, the son of Chung Sam Loo. He was brought to America in 1908 by his uncle, TONG Shaoyi, who was sent to the US as a special envoy to thank the US government for the partial remission of the Boxer Indemnity. Loo attended the Chestnut Street School in Springfield, Massachusetts for a year before entering the Springfield Technical High School in 1909. There, he completed the usual four-year course in three years, and was one of eight students to graduate with honors, serving on the Class Day committee. He also played varsity soccer, ran track, joined the Rifle Club, and served as Class Historian. Loo further impressed the Springfield community by lecturing on subjects such as education in China and his voyage across the Pacific, and he was frequently featured in the Springfield newspapers. After Springfield, Loo matriculated at MIT to study mechanical engineering. At MIT, Loo was active in numerous clubs, including the Walker Club, Cosmopolitan Club (Vice-President senior year), Mechanical Engineering Society (Vice-President Senior), Electrical Engineering Society, and the Chinese Club. He also served on his Class Day Committee. Loo wrote his thesis on "The Effect of Heat-Treatment On the Physical Properties of Wrought Iron" (with ST Tai). he was an early member of the FF Fraternity, the oldest Chinese fraternity in the US.

Above all, however, Loo was famed among his classmates for his starring role on the MIT wrestling team, for which he served as captain in his senior year. Loo was a perennial champion in the 115-pound class, having lost only one bout in his first three years on the team, and his stellar record led to his election as team captain in April 1915. As captain, he helped lead the growth of the wrestling team. Loo was featured in an article on the "Wrestling Season," in the 1916 edition of the Technique (Technique 1917). He was the first Chinese student to lead a varsity team, and to become a member of the MIT Athletic Association.

 PY Loo in  The Oriole , Springfield Technical High School, 1912. Courtesy Archives, Springfield History Museum.

PY Loo in The Oriole, Springfield Technical High School, 1912. Courtesy Archives, Springfield History Museum.

  "Wrestling Season,"   Technique   1917, 128.   Image courtesy MIT Archive and Special Collections.

"Wrestling Season," Technique 1917, 128. Image courtesy MIT Archive and Special Collections.

 "Wrestling Season,"  Technique  1917, 129.  Image courtesy MIT Archive and Special Collections.

"Wrestling Season," Technique 1917, 129. Image courtesy MIT Archive and Special Collections.

After graduation, Loo joined other MIT classmates in going to work for Winchester Repeating Arms Company, where he served as an assistant engineer for two years. Following this, he worked as an engineer with the Allied Machinery Company of America for five years. Returning to China, between 1923 and 1927, he worked as the manager for the American Machinery and Export Company in Tianjin. From 1927 to 1944, he served as president of the China Engineering Construction Company in Shanghai. He was also a partner in C. J. Doughty & Co. Loo returned to America in 1946, helping to found the Wha, Ning and Walsh Construction Company, headquartered in Shanghai. The firm was dedicated to post-war reconstruction in China. Unfortunately, this venture came to an end with the Communist takeover. From 1953 until his death in 1958, Loo worked as a methods engineer at Sears, Roebuck & Co. in New York. He applied for naturalization as a US citizen in 1954. Loo was a member of the Chinese Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Chinese Red Cross, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Heating and Ventilation Engineers, and the Rotary Club. Loo’s daughter, Eileen, married famed architect I.M. Pei (MIT Class of 1940, Architecture).


Sources: CHINESE STUDENTS IN THE SPRINGFIELD SCHOOLS, Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922); Jul 28, 1912; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Boston Globe, pg. 52, Springfield Republican, April 11, 1914, "Technical High School Notes," Springfield Republican, December 15, 1911, Springfield Daily News, February 15, 1912, Springfield Republican, April 13, 1912, Springfield Daily News, June 8, 1912, Springfield Daily News, June 21, 1912, The Oriole, Springfield Technical High School, 1912, "Wrestling Season," Technique 1917, 129. Technique 1917, 220. "The Wrestling Season of 1916," The Technology Monthly, volume 2, no. 7, February 1916, 30-32. https://books.google.com/books?id=h8YrAQAAMAAJ&dq=%22Ping-yok%20Loo%22&pg=RA6-PA31#v=onepage&q&f=false, “PING YOK LOO ELECTED WRESTLING CAPTAIN: Team Holds Annual Banquet- G. H. Stebbins Elected Next Year's Manager.” The Tech, volume XXXV, no. 2, April 5, 1915, tech.mit.edu/V35/PDF/V35-N2.pdf, 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.], Biography of Ping-Yok Loo, the Loo Family Genealogy, http://www.yen.org/genealogy/loo/Ping_Yok_Loo.html, PING Y. LOO, 65, OF SEARS, ROEBUCK: Methods Engineer Since '53 Is Dead--Aided Post-War Reconstruction in China, New York Times, Thursday, October 16, 1958, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at San Francisco, California; NAI Number: 4498993; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Customs Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at San Francisco; NAI Number: 4478116; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85, New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989. Thank you to York Lo and Cliff McCarthy, Archives, Springfield History Museum for providing research on Loo.