When Hae Park came to Cal Poly Pomona as a student, the South Korean immigrant had to overcome a number of challenges. He was driven by a strong work ethic, but he faced language difficulties that made him doubt he could succeed academically. He even considered dropping out at one point.
But thanks to a mentor’s help, Park not only graduated, he became the very epitome of the American Dream: a millionaire businessman. He credits much of his success to his Cal Poly Pomona education and has followed his mentor’s example, supporting scholastic programs at both the university and in the Fontana community, where he does business.
“It’s difficult to imagine a better citizen than Hae Park,” Cal Poly Pomona President J. Michael Ortiz said. “His giving back for the greater good exemplifies one of his trademark beliefs. In this capacity and far beyond, he leads by example.”
For his business achievements and his selfless philanthropic work to support educational causes, Cal Poly Pomona will present Hae Park with an honorary doctorate at the June 16 commencement ceremony for The Collins College of Hospitality Management.
It was Dr. Donald Lundberg, the founding professor of what is now The Collins College of Hospitality Management, whose encouragement and advice helped Park during his undergraduate days.
“I am truly grateful for the education and guidance I received from Dr. Lundberg,” Park said. “I have a tremendous amount of appreciation and respect for the education I received. My successes stem from my college education, and I will always be grateful.”
Park graduated with a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management in 1978. After working in the hospitality industry, he branched out as an entrepreneur. Park returned to Cal Poly Pomona to earn a master’s in business administration in 1984 and also went onto obtain real estate and broker’s licenses. Today, Park and his family own and operate Bel-Air Swap-Meet in Fontana and Pro-Swap-Meet in San Bernardino.
But Park has never forgotten how Lundberg helped him succeed. He has committed himself to the success of future generations of students. As Park put it simply yet eloquently, “It’s now time to invest in whoever needs our help and support.”
In 2004, Park gave $1 million in Lundberg’s memory to establish The Collins College Alumni Office, which strengthens the bonds between the college and its graduates and inspires others to support student programs and college initiatives. His financial contributions have also helped the college build and maintain facilities, publish the award-winning Collins magazine and fund alumni events and scholarships.
“Hae’s gifts over the years have had immeasurable impact on students and alumni,” said Collins College Dean Andy Feinstein. “His generosity has created a positive and systemic impact on the college that will be felt by generations to come.”
Additionally, Park and his wife, Shina, have provided athletic scholarships and supported Harvest Auction, the Southern California Tasting & Auction, the Bronco Golf Classic and Founders’ Celebration. They made a second $1 million gift on behalf of University President J. Michael Ortiz and his wife, Betty’s lifelong commitment to faculty. In 2010, the Park family gave another $1 million to support the college’s new 15,000-square-foot expansion project. All $3 million in contributions were matched by Carol and Jim Collins.
Hae Park’s generosity extends well beyond the university and includes support of Fontana’s Cultural Arts Program and Teen Fest, as well as various educational programs in the community. Park has also provided more than 500 free parking spaces for San Bernardino Valley College students since 2004.
And he has passed on his generous personality to his two children, Eugene and Eunice, who are perhaps his greatest gifts. Like their father, they are Cal Poly Pomona alumni who have been deeply involved with the university.
(Photo: Hae Park)