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There and back again

Canadian Dr F H Kim Krenz, aged 98, shares his tale of coming to Edinburgh to study chemical physics in the 1950s and getting his PhD at the second attempt.

Kim Krenz
Kim Krenz celebrating his 98th birthday.

North America calling

Did you know that the University of Edinburgh is the number one UK destination for USA and Canadian students?

Over 2,500 students from the USA and more than 500 Canadian students currently study at the University.

Meanwhile, 24,000 alumni live in North America, where alumni clubs and groups are active in cities throughout the region. One of our Ontario-based alumni, legacy supporter Dr F H Kim Krenz, contacted us to share his fun-filled student memories from almost 70 years ago. We hope you enjoy his story below.

Early years in China

I was christened Ferdinand Henry Krenz, shortly after birth in the United States. My wife, Kate, did not like either Ferdinand or Henry and chose to call me Kim; and that is the name by which I am known unofficially.

I was raised by a Chinese amah in Peking (Beijing) China where my family was attached to what was then the United States Legation. I still speak colloquial Chinese.

When I had graduated from the Peking American High School in 1936 I went to the University of Rochester, in New York, where I had been given a "Genesee" Scholarship at that University. It was as a student at Rochester that I met Kathleen Coleman who, upon my graduation, became my wife. Kathleen was from a well-known Canadian family and we were married in Toronto, my mother coming from China for the celebration. It was only a matter of time before I was awarded Canadian citizenship.  I continued at the University of Toronto, where I was granted an MSc.

Secret project leads to scholarship

How did I come to Edinburgh? During World War Two, I worked in Montreal on a secret war-time project involving Canada, Great Britain and France, where I worked under Dr Nicholas Miller. After the war, Miller invited me to join him at Edinburgh, where he was establishing a department of Radiation Chemistry. I was granted a scholarship for the position.

My wife Kate and I came to Edinburgh in 1949 when the country was still recovering from hardships brought on by rationing, found a friend who would rent a flat to us, and settled in comfortably for a year or two while I worked on my PhD project.

To say "worked" is something of an exaggeration. Kate and I were footloose and fancy free, not tied down with children, seeing the world for the first time, and my dear maiden Aunt Dorothy had been stationed by her boss in Italy for a year; you can imagine how much work I got done for Miller. The upshot of it was, my degree was refused.

Kate and I returned to Canada feeling very sheepish. After eighteen months I  we  decided I would not continue to live with that blot on my conscience. I packed in the job in Canada and we spent another eighteen months or so in digs at Edinburgh, and I finished my degree with two weeks to spare. For Kate and me it was heaven. Our many Scots friends, Miller included, rallied around, and we celebrated in style. We returned to Canada with a PhD under my belt.

Edinburgh dreamin’

We have visited Edinburgh many times since then, but with time, many connections with the city have disappeared. Kate, too, has gone; but the fond memories of Edinburgh are still strong.

The varsity has expanded almost beyond recognition since my day, and has been heaped with praise and prizes, as indeed it should be. I wish it well.

Kate and I have always looked on those eventful years spent in Edinburgh as a special gift. The many friends we made in Edinburgh have remained friends ever after. I have remembered the University in my will to express thanks for the granting of a degree; but the impression the Edinburgh experience has made on my life goes far beyond any simple expression of gratitude.

I could not have had the career I have had without the distinction afforded by an Edinburgh degree.

Finally, let me take this opportunity to extend best wishes to all who are "at the Starting Gate.''

Related links

North American alumni community

Edinburgh Fund - Scholarships

Leaving a gift in your will