During Kentucky Wesleyan College’s 153rd Annual Commencement on Saturday, Apr. 24, the College honored Dr. Yu Hak Hahn ’58 by awarding an Honorary Doctorate of Business. Dr. Hahn was unable to attend, but rightly recognized for all of his career accomplishments and commitment to his undergraduate alma mater.
Born in Seoul, Korea, Yu Hak Hahn came to the United States as a teenager in 1954. He spoke very little English and had no money to support himself. He and his mother and siblings were victims of the North Korean invasion of Seoul, and they lost their husband/father, home and livelihood. Mr. Hahn persevered and was awarded a tuition scholarship to Kentucky Wesleyan. He earned living expenses by working in the College cafeteria with full-time jobs during the summer months.
He earned a bachelor of arts in mathematics from Wesleyan, a master’s degree in physics from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from Penn State.
Dr. Hahn accepted a position as a senior scientist with Bausch & Lomb in Rochester, N.Y., and in 1967, he founded his own company, Laser Energy, Inc., and manufactured high power lasers.
He later relocated to Albuquerque, N.M., where he founded CVI Laser Corporation. The company expanded rapidly and opened operations and/or purchased similar businesses in Connecticut, California and Florida, as well as South Korea and England. CVI became the world’s largest manufacturer of high quality laser products.
The company was awarded National Small Business Subcontractor of the Year distinction in New Mexico and the National Small Business Contractor Award in the United States.
Dr. Hahn gave a challenge grant of $1 million for a science center at the College, spearheading a drive that raised enough money to begin construction of the state-of-the-art building.
The Board of Trustees of Kentucky Wesleyan College named the College’s new science center in his honor in 2004, and the Yu Hak Hahn Center for the Sciences was dedicated in September 2005.
The Hahn family established the Yu Hak Hahn Endowed Scholarship, awarded to a full-time student who is majoring in a science discipline of biology, chemistry or physics, in honor of Dr. Hahn.
Wesleyan recognized Dr. Hahn’s outstanding achievements by recognizing him with the Alumni Achievement Award in 2003 and induction into the Alumni Hall of Fame in 2005.