Tag: Korea Project

Washington University signed an agreement with the US government, launching a six-year collaboration with Korea University and Yonsei University to repair and modernize business education programs in South Korea that were gutted by war, languishing from a stagnant economy, and stalled in old-fashioned teaching practices.

From 1958 to 1964, the Korea Project sent Olin faculty on extended tours of duty in Seoul to counsel educators overseas, demonstrate new teaching styles, write new curricula, and rebuild business libraries at the two schools.

Meanwhile, dozens of South Korean business professors observed, studied, and earned business degrees in Washington University classrooms in St. Louis.

“The Korea Project is one of the great chapters in Olin’s history and one of the important ones in Washington University’s history,” said Bob Virgil, Olin Dean Emeritus, who served as a graduate student aid to the program’s leadership and still counts many of the Korean exchange students as longtime personal friends.

Bob Virgil talks about the Korea Project and its impact in video above.

Goals of the project


Washu professors teaching in Seoul classroom.

Nobody credits the Korea Project for South Korea’s economic rise, but many agree on both sides of the Pacific that the intense concentration of academic resources helped push the nation’s business community in the right direction.

“It was a great contribution that Washington University made in Korea,” said Ja Song, who came to St. Louis to earn his MBA as part of the Korea Project’s effort to train overseas colleagues.

After graduating in 1961, Song served a mandatory 16-month tour in the Korean army, and returned to earn his doctorate in accounting. He taught for 10 years at the University of Connecticut, then returned to teach in Korea until 1992 when he began a four-year term as president of Yonsei University—the college that had recommended him for the Korea Project in the first place.

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Link to the entire story on the Korea Project by Kurt Greenbaum on the Olin100 website.

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Our business school had a leader named Trump who became dean in 1954. Ross M. Trump came to WashU in 1949 from Tulane University, where he taught marketing. Trump was a native of Ohio and earned undergraduate, masters, and doctorate degrees from Ohio State University.

Dean Ross TrumpAccording to Washington University historian Ralph E. Morrow, Trump “was endowed with bulldog determination, canny judgment, and knew where he wanted to take his school”—which, as it turned out, was abroad.

We may take traveling abroad for granted in the 21st century, but in 1958, “international collaboration” was a new concept for the business school and the University. With financial help from the International Cooperation Agency (ICA), the predecessor to the Agency for International Development, the business school launched a cooperative program with Yonsei and Korea Universities in South Korea to re-establish and update management training in the aftermath of the Korean War.


Business school classroom in South Korea

A contingent of WashU business professors moved their families to Korea during the project while Korean students and professors came to St. Louis to study. In 1960, another project funded by the ICA brought approximately 50 students from Tunisia to St. Louis for two years of study in business.

In addition to international collaboration, Dean Trump worked diligently to cultivate relations with the St. Louis business community, inviting leaders to teach and serve as guest speakers on campus.

Curriculum was also a top priority—both undergraduate and graduate. During Dean Trump’s tenure, the school’s two-year undergraduate curriculum was revamped while eliminating degrees in retailing and public administration. A national trend toward graduate degrees inspired Dean Trump to implement a graduate program in 1958 that offered an MBA and a curriculum leading to a doctoral degree. However, during the first six years of Dean Trump’s tenure, the business school saw the number of graduate students grow almost 80 percent, while undergraduate enrollment dropped by almost 12 percent.

In an effort to reverse the decline of undergraduate student enrollment, Dean Trump proposed the introduction of a four-year undergraduate curriculum in 1958 and again in 1960. Both times he failed to win support. In fact, the policy of admitting freshmen to a four-year undergraduate program at WashU did not become a reality until 1973.

Trump resigned in 1967 to return to teaching and research. In an obituary published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch in August of 1994, Trump was praised by a former star student, Bob Virgil, who later became a dean of the business school. The article stated,

“Robert L. Virgil, another colleague and friend, said Mr. Trump was ‘ahead of his time’ in terms of international education, both in Korea and Tunisia. ‘He was one of the leaders of business education in this country, and made a significant contribution to its development nationally and internationally.’”

centennial logo redFlagRead more about Olin’s first century on the Olin100 website.

Photos courtesy of WUSTL Archives. Top photo: WashU business school professors arrive in Seoul, S.Korea.