Biography James G.S. Yang by Granddaughter, Yu Syuan Yang
My grandfather was born in a small village in Huatan Township, Changhua County, Taiwan in 1938. At the time, Taiwan was ruled by the Japanese. The residents mostly depended on farming to support themselves. They were living through hard work. Life was extremely difficult, and my grandpa’s tough family environment did not help.
Pursuing knowledge was a luxury and was considered useless for people at that time. But my grandfather was a maverick. Since his childhood, he had an undying love for education. He knew that there was no end to learning, and he studied diligently every single day, no matter the circumstance. Despite constant opposition from his parents, nothing stopped him from learning. He and his sister assisted their parents in farming each day to satisfy them. After sunset, he immersed himself in a sea of books until late at night. Grandpa's grades were excellent throughout his childhood, from Sanchun Elementary School to Junior High School and the National Changhua Senior School of Commerce, and in 1957, he was admitted to National Taiwan University, in Taipei, the number 1 university in Taiwan. He had become a hero and a model in the small village. Neighbors, relatives, and friends were very proud of his talents. Grandpa then went to Taipei to further his studies.
When grandpa went to school in Taipei, he was met with more obstacles. His family’s financial resources were very limited, so he had to find ways to make money in order to help support them. He scoured campus for part-time jobs, and then also earned the position as a full-time clerk at the Bank of Taiwan. The salary for the two jobs was enough to support tuition and living expenses, but was far from enough for his dream, to study abroad in the United States and earn an even higher degree. Fortunately, grandpa’s mentor had faith in him and did not want him to lose out on his potential, so he helped to support him. Grandpa was also granted a government scholarship to study in the United States and fulfill his dreams. He appreciated his mentor so much. I think this is also the reason why he was so kind to everyone and was always willing to help others, since he received help when he was younger.
My grandfather met the girl of his dreams in high school. She was his classmate in the same grade. She was lively and outgoing, and often stood out in speech and composition competitions, but he could only bury love in his heart at that time. He thought that he was a penniless young man who did not deserve her. That girl is my grandmother, Ethel Yang. After being admitted to National Taiwan University and earning a job at the Bank of Taiwan, grandpa started writing her love letters, 7 in total. One day, grandpa spontaneously plucked up the courage and went to grandma’s house alone, telling grandma’s parents that he wished to marry her. Grandma was at work and was completely unaware. Grandma’s father asked her through the phone who this stranger was and if she knew of his plans to marry her. Terrified, grandma dropped everything she was doing and went home as fast as she could to learn the details. Afterwards, her father conducted a background check on grandpa through his connections. He recognized the young man's self-motivated spirit and approved. Grandpa and grandma got married under the blessing and witness of both sets of parents.
Soon after getting married, in 1963, my grandpa embarked on a study trip to the United States. Grandma came to United States a year later. Grandma once told me that they were not only husband and wife, but also comrades in arms. They both left their homeland and worked hard to fulfill their dreams. They supported each other and took care of each other. United States has become the second home of grandpa and grandma.
In 1980, my grandfather formally adopted my father, Shin Kun Yang, as his son. Grandpa was always very nostalgic of Taiwan. No matter where he was, Taiwan would always be his home.
In 1982, my grandfather was hired at Montclair State University as a professor of accounting. During his 35 years at the school, he became deeply involved with the research and teaching in the academic field of international tax law. With the love and enthusiasm for teaching along with research, he published over 100 academic articles, nurtured many outstanding students, and created countless opportunities for academic exchanges between the United States and China during his tenure. These are all achievements that Grandpa was proud of. Even after he retired, Grandpa continued to create and study, since that was his calling. He never grew tired of it. His family members sincerely admire his spirit.