He cut class to see her at breakfast. Nutrition became their lives

alt= A couple standing with leis around their necks at a celebration. An inset photo shows them on their wedding day in formal attire beside a tiered wedding cake.
Cecilia and Henry Leung

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day. But it was beyond important for Henry Leung, PHD ’75 ACES, and Cecilia Tsun-Tai Jen Leung, MS ’71 ACES, PHD ’74 ACES, back when they were international graduate students—he from Hong Kong, and she from Taiwan.

Nutrition science was her field, and he was headed for a career in food chemistry. But the morning repast was far from an academic matter. “Cecilia was very kind and sweet. She was the girl I wanted to marry,” Henry says. “I had to find a way to get close to her. So I found out her breakfast schedule.”

First thing most days, Henry would casually coast into the dining hall to woo Cecilia with pleasantries in Mandarin. “I saw him almost every day,” she says. “And I thought, ‘This person has the same schedule as mine.’” Only later did she find out that he was cutting his 8 a.m. class for their encounters.

“I still aced all my tests,” Henry says. “My absence was, fortunately, forgiven.”

They married on June 9, 1973, at University Baptist Church. Cecilia wore a beautiful, borrowed wedding gown. Her sister, Rosa Tsun-Min Jen Tong, MS ’73 ACES, PHD ’77 LAS, was the bridesmaid. Neither of the couple’s parents could attend, so Henry’s adviser, food sciences professor Marvin Steinberg, PHD ’53 ACES, and his wife, Esther Steinberg represented Henry’s family. Dairy science professor Carl Davis, PHD ’59 ACES, gave Cecilia away.

The couple went on to a wide-ranging life. Henry taught food science and chemistry, and then moved into corporate research and development. Cecilia did research on nutritional biochemistry. “Our areas were so close” she says. “We had things to talk about all the time. At the dinner table, the kids learned a lot.” Son Geoffrey went on to earn his MD, and daughter Sophia Leung Wang, MS ’05 ACES, followed her parents in pursuing a graduate degree in food science at Illinois.

Henry and Cecilia eventually landed in Laguna Woods, Calif., near their children and grandchildren. In 2023, the Leungs celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, a milestone that “only about 5 percent of married couples achieve,” according to Henry. 

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