Tricia Hendricks wrote this article originally for the Spirit of WashU.
An accomplished business professor and academic leader, Ja Song, MBA ’62, DBA ’67, left an indelible mark on higher education in his native Korea. As the 12th president of South Korea’s prestigious Yonsei University from 1992 to 1996, he effected lasting change. During his tenure, he transformed the admissions process, initiated interdisciplinary collaboration, and spearheaded the school’s first fundraising efforts, securing 100 billion won—the equivalent of about $82.3 million today. Soon after, other universities across South Korea began to follow Yonsei’s lead in these arenas.
“For Dad, it all started at WashU,” says Mr. Song’s youngest daughter, Jean Song, who lives in Honolulu. “His experience as a student there opened up his eyes to the world and the possibilities of education and set the stage for what he achieved later in life.”
Soon after Mr. Song’s death in 2019, his wife, Soonhi Song, along with her daughters, Grace Song Park and Jean Song, recognized the pivotal role Washington University played in his life by pledging $1 million to establish an endowed fellowship in his name through the Hongmosoomin Foundation. The Song Ja Fellowship in the university’s McDonnell International Scholars Academy will enable alumni of Yonsei and other South Korean universities to pursue graduate studies at WashU while preparing for global leadership.
“The purpose of this fellowship is to nurture future leaders,” says Dr. Park, a physician in Santa Barbara, California. “It will help promising individuals attend WashU and then leverage all that they’ve learned and experienced to serve the greater good, which is exactly what my dad did.”
Mr. Song and dozens of other South Korean business students and professors came to study at Washington University as a result of the Korea Project, a six-year collaboration involving the Olin Business School, Yonsei University, and Korea University. Tapped by the U.S. government, Olin helped rehabilitate and modernize business education programs in South Korea in an effort to boost the country’s languishing economy in the aftermath of the Korean War.
Mr. Song, who grew up in the impoverished Korean countryside, earned his MBA and doctorate in business administration at WashU.