Remembering Dr. Myung Ki Hong (1934-2021)

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We are sad to report that long-time supporter and alumnus Dr. Myung Ki “Mike” Hong ‘59 passed away on August 18, 2021 at the age of 87.

Born in Seoul on June 20, 1934, Dr. Hong came to the United States from South Korea in 1954 as an exchange student and became the first Korean to obtain a bachelor’s degree in chemistry when he graduated in 1959. 

“As a proud Bruin, I can trace my success back to my chemistry education at UCLA, which was rewarding both personally and professionally.” Dr. Hong said. “I would not have been able to create the various chemical systems that are the backbone of my company without my degree, but the greatest tool I acquired at UCLA was the ability to persevere. The valuable support and education I obtained helped me become the successful business owner and philanthropist I am today.” 

Dr. Mike Hong holding the Pyramid of Success

A huge fan of UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden, Dr. Hong is pictured here in June 2021 with a framed Pyramid of Success bearing an original Wooden autograph. This was a birthday gift on behalf of the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Department Chair, Professor Neil Garg.

“When I met Dr. Hong I knew about his accomplishments as one of the most successful Chemistry Alumni,” said Dean of Physical Sciences Miguel García-Garibay. “I remember having conversations with him and his wife Lorrie about his entrepreneurial accomplishments, and how, with deep emotions and a desire to give back, he credited his success to the support he received from faculty and fellow students during his time at UCLA. We will miss Dr. Hong very deeply and I am extremely pleased that we will forever honor his memory with the Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chairs, currently held by Professors Maynard and Kaner, two amazing teachers, mentors, and scholars, who I am sure will continue making him proud.”

“Dr. Hong was a wonderful human being and I will cherish the time I spent with him,” said Department Chair Professor Neil Garg. “He understood the importance of innovative science, but also displayed impeccable wisdom, honesty, and compassion. He embodied the values we hold sacred at UCLA and will be remembered as one of our most distinguished alumni and as a True Bruin.”

Renowned for his expertise in resin and coatings, Dr. Hong founded Dura Coat Products, Inc. in 1986, where his first product breakthrough was a water-based formulation that was both effective and eco-friendly. In addition to facilities in California and Alabama, the company distributes its technology through licensing agreements with companies all around the world.

“It was such an honor for me to meet Dr. Hong,” said Professor Catherine Clarke. “I was inspired by his decision to start up his own company at age 51. He was always so humble, gracious, and kind. I am so grateful for his very generous support of the department. The two Chairs he endowed have enabled our faculty and their students and postdoctoral fellows to pursue novel ideas and new research directions.”

The department honored Dr. Hong with the 2015 UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Alumni Award and he gave a moving commencement address at the graduation ceremony on June 13, 2015.

Dr. Mike Hong pictured at the 2015 Alumni Award

(Right) Dr. Hong is presented the 2015 Alumni Award by Dean Joseph Rudnick. (Left) Dr. Hong and his wife Lorrie Hong at the 2018 Endowed Chemistry & Biochemistry Chair Gala.

In 2016, Dr. Hong donated $2 million toward the establishment of two endowed chairs in the department. The gift created the Dr. Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chair in Polymer Science, currently held by Professor Heather Maynard and the Dr. Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chair in Materials Innovation, currently held by Professor Richard Kaner. Both chairs support scientific research with applications ranging from regenerative medicine to environmental sustainability.

Dr. Mike Hong pictured with Professors Ric Kaner and Heather Maynard

At the 2018 Endowed Chemistry & Biochemistry Chair Gala, chair holders Professors Richard Kaner and Heather Maynard with Dr. Hong.

In May 2018, Dr. Hong and his wife Lorrie were honored at the 2018 Endowed Chemistry & Biochemistry Chair Gala, where over 170 people gathered at the Luskin Center to celebrate the installation of six new endowed Chairs for the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

“Dr. Hong was an incredible person who touched me in so many ways,” said Professor Heather Maynard. “Dr. Hong was a brilliant polymer chemist and was always so excited about science; it was really fun to talk about research with him. He was also so kind and interesting. His generosity and forward-thinking really inspired me. I am very proud to hold the Dr. Myung Ki Hong Professor in Polymer Science as a part of his legacy. I will really miss Dr. Hong.”  

“Dr. Hong had a great passion for scientific research and the people who carry it out,” said Professor Richard Kaner. “His extraordinary generosity has both inspired and enabled the next generation of scientists and entrepreneurs from our department to carry out groundbreaking research and make the world a better place.”

At the May 2021 UCLA Physical Sciences Centennial Awards event Dr. Hong was honored with the Chemistry & Biochemistry Luminary Award in recognition of his professional accomplishments.

Dr. Hong was deeply involved with philanthropic and civic causes in Southern California. After the civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1992, he committed himself to promoting community harmony by promoting a better understanding of cultural diversity. He served as chairman of a foundation dedicated to preserving the memory of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, one of the early leaders of the Korean-American immigrant community. In this capacity, Hong oversaw fundraising efforts, construction, installation and dedication of the Dosan Ahn Chang Ho statue in Riverside in 2001. 

In 2002, Dr. Hong established the Bright World Foundation, based on a translation of his Korean name, Myung Ki (‘bright place’), now known as the M & L Hong Foundation, which aims to respond to the growing demands and needs of local communities.

Dr. Hong received an honorary doctorate for humanitarian services from La Sierra University in 2002 as well as an honorary doctorate in science from Sam Yook University in South Korea in 2014.

Dr. Hong’s wife Lorrie Youngok Hong passed away on August 21, 2020. The Hongs are survived by their children Cindy, Michelle, Christine, and David.

Dr. Hong’s obituary appeared in The Press Enterprise on August 28, 2021. A memorial service for Dr. Hong was held on Thursday, September 2, 2021.