Kaist leads the wayLyu Keun-chul, a pioneering doctor of Oriental medicine and a tenured professor at Bauman Moscow State Technical University, generously donated 57.8 billion won ($55.6 million) of his wealth to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. It is the biggest donation ever given by an individual to a university in Korea. The amount is bigger than the sum of all donations received last year by Yonsei and Korea universities, which usually get the largest donations among Korean universities.
It is hoped that the noble intention of Lyu, who readily contributed the wealth he amassed during his lifetime, would lead to fruition at Kaist in scientific and technological development.
Lyu’s donation suggests a lot to university circles. Lyu said he was impressed by Kaist’s efforts at reform and innovation and decided to make the donation to the school. Last year Kaist denied tenure to 15 professors and this year dismissed six professors who had poor research performance. By doing these, Kaist is bringing winds of change into Korean university circles. Its reform efforts showing the school’s vision and passion for growth had attracted the large donation.
Progress at a university cannot be achieved without sufficient financial resources. To this end, universities are making efforts to seek donations to fund development, but the results have been poor. Total donations raised by universities in Korea is less than the $830 million received by Stanford University last year. This shows a limitation in local universities’ ability to attract donations from alumni and parents of new students.
Universities should attract large voluntary donations from benevolent individuals, like Lyu’s gift to Kaist. For that purpose, universities first must come up with a clear vision for reform and progress. A charitable donation comes out of trust in a university.