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Why Charles Kim gave SOM $1 million

Charles and Jean Kim donate to Binghamton University

Charles Kim pledged $1 million to support curriculum advancement and student scholarships because he wanted to ensure all students have access to the American Dream

I believe that every student deserves a fair shake at success, however they define that success. Out of any place in the world I know, I still believe America gives its youth the best opportunities to make that happen.

And I believe it is this — that opportunity and success remain available to everyone — that will keep America strong, and a model for progress in the world. But every day I see signs that this country’s playing field is not as level as it once was. The wealthiest people in our society seem to be getting exponentially richer, while normal Americans haven’t been making any headway at all.

The ability to earn a top-notch education at a premier public institution is an important part of keeping America’s field level. My family’s background, like so many Binghamton students, did not involve a lot of money. But Binghamton was there to give me a solid education at a wonderful institution — at a price that was affordable.

SOM and the wider University gave me the solid backbone of financial knowledge I needed to compete in the fast-paced professional world of today. And the quality of the professors and my fellow students gave me the ability to think in a scope that was broader than just the task before me and immerse myself in a competitive, but not cutthroat, environment. 

After being thrust into the ‘real world,’ I thought my educational background might not match up to those with big-name Universities on their résumés. But it didn’t take long for me to realize this was just untrue. The education I received at Binghamton was top notch. I was on equal footing with all my coworkers and the only thing that set us apart was how hard we were willing to work for our success. Students need to learn that they don’t need an Ivy League-name education to succeed. All they need is a little confidence in themselves, the desire to work hard and just a little bit of ambition (mixed in with a dab of humility).

Let’s face it, my gift is not going to catapult the University to some new standard on the Endowment League Tables, but my hope is two-fold. The first is to fill immediate gaps that the University is facing today such as hiring and retaining the best possible faculty and providing the proper tools and facilities necessary to foster a robust learning environment. Nothing fancy, nothing glossy, just everything the students and professors need to succeed.

Second, Jean and I made this gift in the hope that other Binghamton alums will take a moment to see that their own success in life can, at least partially, be attributed to the solid foundations laid at Binghamton. I hope my donation will in some way help raise awareness that the school they received so much from needs their help now to forge ahead and write the next chapter of its development. I decided to concentrate the gift within SOM because I wanted it to make a meaningful impact as soon as possible in the part of the school that was most meaningful to me. I hope other alums will come forward to do the same for the other important areas of the University that touched their lives. 

Binghamton needs the support of its alumni like it never has before. Statewide fiscal problems have led to deep budget cuts at the school. The costs of running a high quality educational institution are increasing rapidly. And the University’s is pushing the envelope to make our alma mater a National Tier 1 (public or private) University. It truly will take all of our efforts to help the University realize its full potential. I hope everyone can lend a hand in whatever way they can in order to make this a reality. 

So many things exemplify what Binghamton meant to me: a high-quality education that didn’t break the bank; top-notch students that were as great to compete against as they were to hang out with; professors that taught a rigorous curriculum but always had time on the side to help a struggling student; a great social culture among the student body that was both diverse while at the same time open and accessible; the culinary delights of the city (Spiedies and Wing Dings!). All of these things combined to make college a full and rich and valuable experience that I’ll never forget. 

Last Updated: 2/6/17