The Origins of the IIT Asian Alumni Association

By Jeanne Hartig
Vice President for Marketing and Communications
The Origins of the IIT Asian Alumni Association
A scene through the doorway of one of the many buildings on the grounds of the Gyeongbokgung in Seoul, considered by many to be the most famous palace of the Joseon Dynasty.
Photo: Jeanne Hartig

The first IIT international alumni meeting was held in Hong Kong in 2000 with Victor Lo (DSGN ’73) and S. R. Cho (M.A.S. CHE ’66) serving as the honorary co-chairs. Every two years since, the group has met in different countries, including Thailand (Bangkok), Japan (Tokyo), India (Mumbai), China (Beijing), and South Korea (Seoul).

In 2012, I spoke at length with Darsh Wasan, vice president for international affairs and Motorola Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering, about the origins of the IIT Asian Alumni Association. The following is an excerpt from that conversation:

“In 1995, in the early spring, I took a trip abroad and my first stop was Seoul. I met with a very prominent IIT alumnus, Chairman [and Chief Executive Officer of the Hyosung Corporation] S. R. Cho, who had graduated from IIT 30 years earlier,” recalls Wasan. Cho was appointed to the IIT Board of Trustees in 1996—one of the first persons of Asian origin to be so honored.

Wasan says that Cho asked him what his board expectations would be.

“I said, ‘I don’t expect you to attend all the meetings since you are so far away,” says Wasan. “But what I’d like you to do is to help me to develop the alumni network in Asia.’ He said, ‘That I can do.’”

And that he did. Under his and Wasan’s leadership, membership in the IIT Asian Alumni Association has grown significantly. At this year’s meeting in Seoul, Cho, who has served on the university’s International Board of Overseers since 2002, was honored at the gala dinner for his service to IIT.