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Faculty Excellence Comes Full Circle in Newest Hong Endowment

Donald and Matt Hong at Poole College
Donald and Matt Hong at Poole College

In spring 2018, Matt Hong (’94) established an endowed scholarship in the NC State Poole College of Management in memory of his mother, Jean Hong, who died in March 2014.

In fall 2018, Hong, who is now chief operating officer at Turner Sports in Atlanta, established a second endowment, this time with a focus on faculty excellence and in honor of his father, Donald Hong.

Both father and son made a visit to Nelson Hall on November 2, 2018, while on campus for NC State’s homecoming game and Red and White Week celebration.

‘When my wife, Soogi, and I established the endowment in Mom’s name, we had it in the back of our minds that at some point we’d create another one to recognize Dad as well,” Matt Hong said.

Then, more recently, the Hongs decided to accelerate the process of setting up the endowment in honor of the elder Hong. “I realized that Mom is not here to witness the impact an endowment can have, and we’d like Dad to be able to do that – to experience some of the joy that comes with an endowment in your name,” Matt Hong said. He told his father about his plans in October, as soon as he received details about setting up the endowment from Anya Reid, executive director of development and external relations at Poole College. “And Dad was like a kid on Christmas morning,” said a smiling Hong.

The joy of making a gift to help our university … there’s really no reason to wait.
–Matt Hong (’94)

When establishing the endowment in his mother’s name, Hong, who went on to attend Harvard Law School after graduating from NC State, said they decided to have it support scholarships that would attract top students to the college.

Both Hong and his mother were scholarship recipients when they were in school. And, he said, he had learned that his mother had been contributing to the NC State Student Success Fund even after he had graduated. “She was super thankful for the impact that NC State had on my life, and her donations were a small recognition of that,” he said.

Hong said that he knew when it came time to set up an endowment to honor his father, it would be for faculty support. He explained why with a sports analogy: “Without high caliber faculty to match and teach our Poole students, it would be like having hall of fame wide receivers without a good quarterback.”

His father elaborated, saying the knowledge and reputation of the faculty is important, and that faculty had directly impacted his personal experience as a student at the University of Michigan. Indeed, it was a professor who encouraged Don Hong to apply for his first career position in the pharmaceutical industry almost 50 years ago. The Hong family moved several times as Don’s career progressed, ultimately landing them in Raleigh in 1984 where Don worked at Glaxo, his wife, Jean, worked at Burroughs Wellcome, and they retired from Covidien and Scynexis, respectively.

Don Hong grew up in inner-city Detroit and saw first-hand the hard work his parents put into their family restaurant business. While juggling high school and working in his parents’ restaurant, he recognized education as a means to help him launch a successful career outside of the restaurant trade. As an aside, the younger Hong similarly credits a summer – between graduating from high school and starting at NC State – spent working at his grandparents’ restaurant in Detroit as a “great motivator” heading into college. The senior Hong studied pharmaceutical chemistry and earned his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan, where he met his wife, Jean.

The Hongs’ ultimate goal with the new endowment, they said, was to drive excellence in the faculty, benefiting both the college and the students. Don Hong notes, “Faculty reputation and quality help build the reputation of an institution. That was true for me at Michigan and I am proud to have my name affiliated with a faculty excellence fund at NC State.”

Speaking about the new endowment, Matt Hong said, “Many people intend to be charitable to their alma maters, thinking it’s something they’ll do in their later years. But what we’ve received from doing it earlier than we may have originally intended – the joy of making a gift to help our university while also honoring my parents….and in this case, allowing my Dad to witness and experience the benefits as well – I’d encourage fellow Wolfpackers to see that there’s really no reason to wait.”