The story behind the library lions


Nikisun Shrestha

The Wong family donated the lion statues that sit in front of the Sims Memorial Library as they brought their culture to Hammond.

Nikisun Shrestha, Staff Reporter

When entering or exiting the Sims Memorial Library, one of the artifacts that can be overlooked are the two lion statues placed at the entrance of the library. These lions have a story of their own.

The lions were donated to the university by the Wong family. They are the owners of Trey Yuen in Mandeville, Cate Street Seafood Station in Hammond, The Boston Restaurant in Amite City and Courtyard Cafe in Hammond.

John Wong described the history behind installing the lions.

“In 1987, when we began construction on the new Trey Yuen, we ordered two pairs, one for the restaurant and one for Southeastern,” said Wong. “We wanted to show our appreciation for all the support from the students and faculty. The pair of lions are a replica of the lions that protect the Forbidden City and imperial palace of Beijing.”

The lions also had a deeper meaning for the Wong family, which represented their family values and teachings.

“Mei Wong is really the reason my brothers and I donated the lions,” said John Wong. “My mother was an incredible woman. She gave up everything to bring us to America from Hong Kong in 1966. She told us when we became successful, we should give back.”

As the Wong brothers grew up, Mei Wong taught her sons the strength of being together.

“She taught us that we were like a fist, my five brothers and myself,” said John Wong. “Alone, we are weak like a single finger, but together, a strong fist. The culture of family, tradition and community is alive in how my wife and I have raised our children. The legacy we leave behind will carry on to future generations of Wongs, and I hope Southeastern students as well. Together, we are strong.”

According to John Wong, the lions are the guardians of the building. The pair of male and female lions protect the physical and the spiritual world, and the Chinese lions “project power scaring away enemies and evil spirits.”

The statues were constructed in China and were shipped on a boat to the Port of New Orleans. A ceremony was held to celebrate the donation. John Wong stated that the installation of the lions cost $25,000.

Bryan Wong shared how his experience at the university helped him in his life.

“I know, personally, how impactful my degree from the business school and my experience as a Lion has shaped me,” said Bryan Wong. “Southeastern taught me a lot about character and work ethic. The business principles I learned have helped me be successful. Being a Southeastern Lion, to me, is about a period of my life where I became the man I am today. It’s about overcoming struggles and pushing yourself to get to that next level of excellence.”

Bryan Wong also discussed his father’s hard work and the sentiments of appreciating his family.

“My father is such a great man,” said Bryan Wong. “I know he wishes he didn’t have to leave school at the young age of 15. Back then, that wasn’t a decision that he could make. He had to go to work to help support his family. He has always sacrificed so much for us. So, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps in business and make him proud. He was really dedicated to making sure I attended a great university.”

Bryan Wong described the feeling he has being a graduate of the university.

“When I see my degree in my office, I’m filled with pride knowing that I’m a part of the Southeastern family,” said Bryan Wong. “I hope my kids get to spend time on the campus and continue our traditions.”

The Wong family’s recent project is the soon to open One Thirteen Restaurant at 113 N. Oak St. in Hammond.