Years ago it was a simple act of kindness that impressed Young-Chul Hong.
(From left to right) Katherine Anderson, her husband, Dean Douglas D. Anderson, Young Chul-Hong and, his wife, Mira Wie Hong.
Dr. Hong received an honorary doctorate in business from USU at commencement in May 2007.
During his time at USU, while he was going after his MBA degree, Hong said he didn’t keep track of special dates like his birthday but apparently his roommates, Harry Miller Jr., Richard Hall and Steve Gonzales, did. Hong said he came home to discover his roommates had “kindly prepared a surprise party for me. I was so impressed and that pleasant memory is still very clear in my mind. The smiles on their faces that day, remain in my heart,even today.”
Dr. Hong is now the chairman and CEO of Kiswire, one of the world’s leading makers of specialty steel wire. Even though he leads a firm that owns 20 plants worldwide and employs 4,200 people, he has not forgotten USU and the individuals who helped him while he was here.
For example, Dr. Hong still remembers Professor Allen Kartchner’s statistics class.
“His lectures were unlike any other professor’s in that he turned the boring numbers into something more interesting,” Dr. Hong said. “The mathematical procedures I learned from him aided me as a CEO in my company in various ways by providing me the methods I would need to predict the flow of the world’s economy. That understanding has strengthened my company.”
In 2005, Dr. Hong paid to bring Dr. Kartchner and his brother Eugene, who was also one of Dr. Hong’s professors, and their wives to South Korea as his guests for 10 days.
“It was an absolutely wonderful trip,” Dr. Kartchner said. “We had a great time there. It was an experience of a lifetime.”
Dr. Kartchner said Dr. Hong, who is president of the South Korean chapter of the USU Alumni Association, has been a strong advocate of USU in South Korea.
“He’s a person who remembers people,” Dr. Kartchner said. “I thought it was just amazing that he would remember a professor he had 35 years ago.”
A group of Huntsman Scholars that traveled to Asia last summer also experienced some of Dr. Hong’s hospitality, according to Vijay R. Kannan, director of international programs at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.
“Dr. Hong was instrumental in not only enabling the group to visit and learn about Kiswire, but through his contacts, he arranged visits to a Samsung research and development facility as well as Hyundai’s largest car assembly plant,” Dr. Kannan said. “Both he and his colleagues went out of their way to ensure the group had a memorable experience and gained an appreciation for Korean culture and society. The South Korea part of the trip could not have been done without Dr. Hong’s support and dedication to helping the Huntsman School of Business.”
Dr. Hong recently donated $250,000 to support programs of excellence in the Huntsman School of Business and another $250,000 to the Department of Sociology at USU.
“All I wish for is that my small contribution will aid the students in becoming better professionals and in serving society in better ways,” he said.
Dean Douglas D. Anderson visited Dr. Hong in South Korea in 2007 and was given a VIP tour of the Kiswire plant in Hongduk, South Korea. (See a video of the tour at huntsman.usu.edu/hong)
“There is nothing small about Dr. Hong’s contributions or the impact he continues to have at Utah State University,” Dean Anderson said. “He demonstrates to our students that humility, compassion and integrity are principles that can lead to success on a global scale. That’s the kind of example we want our students to see.”
When Dr. Hong took over his father’s business in 1988, it employed only 2,300 people and had sales of $160.4 million. It now boasts sales of $1.5 billion. In 1995, he was awarded the Gold-Tower Industrial Contribution Decoration by the president of South Korea. It is the highest honor given by the South Korean government for contributions to the economic welfare of the country. In 2004, the Huntsman School of Business recognized him with a Professional Achievement Award. In 2007, USU awarded Dr. Hong an honorary doctorate.
Dr. Hong said he came to USU because he was looking to “experience a greater diversity, both cultural and intellectual.”
“I also wanted to challenge myself further by confronting the unpredictable nature of the future,” he said.
Harry Miller, ’73, personnel management, was one of Dr. Hong’s roommates when Dr. Hong was at USU. He said he remembers how surprised Dr. Hong was when they threw a party for him. He said Dr. Hong was shy, humble and very smart.
“We all thought he was a little computer,” he said. “He was so focused. He’d learn things; they went into that computer bank, and he would spit them out later, verbatim, no problem. He was more than willing to help his fellow students with any kind of statistics or mathematical problem.”
Dr. Hong said his time at USU paid off.
“The invaluable knowledge and experience I acquired at USU influenced my business and life and became the basis of today’s Kiswire,” he said.
In a recent interview, Dr. Hong shared some advice about succeeding in business:
1. Leadership is not something that a person is born with. “It comes with continued practice and endless effort.”
2. Leaders need to think about the big picture and long-term goals. They need to have what he calls “a global mindset.”
3. Don’t make decisions on instinct alone. “Always think ahead and list the potential problems that may arise before proceeding with a decision. Think scientifically.”
He said one of the reasons he was willing to ensure the Huntsman Scholars had a good experience is because he thinks it’s important that they develop a “global mind.”
“Students get special experiences from visiting overseas countries where they learn about different cultures and develop relationships with business, government and academic leaders,” he said. “This is the beginning of what they need to know to enter into a global marketplace. Those experiences will definitely help the students develop their business potential in the future.”