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Conrad H. Lung ’72 Receives Hamilton Medal

Friday, November 20, 2009

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Conrad H. Lung '72 received the Alexander Hamilton Medal, the highest honor paid to a member of the Columbia College family, at a black-tie dinner in Low Rotunda on November 19. The medal is awarded annually by the Columbia College Alumni Association to an alumnus/a or faculty member for distinguished service to the College and accomplishment in any field of endeavor.

Lung, who was born in Canton, China, recalled receiving a thin letter from Columbia when he was 18, which he surmised to be a rejection of his application for admission. "I do not remember so much the joy, but the utter disbelief and incomprehension," he said, upon learning he had been accepted and offered a scholarship and campus job that would enable him to attend. He described the Core Curriculum as "a life-transforming experience" and referred to Homer's Odyssey in speaking about his journey from an impoverished youth in China to business success in America. Speaking of Homer's hero, Lung said, "Instead of being hopelessly lost, he found himself at his destination, a different man."

President Lee C. Bollinger was joined by Dean of the College Michele Moody-Adams and Columbia College Alumni Association President Geoffrey J. Colvin '74 in presenting Lung with the medal. "You have always been a pioneer, a leader rather than a follower," Bollinger said, noting that Lung was the first Columbian of Asian descent to be presented with the medal since Wellington Koo (Class of 1909) in 1949, three years after its inception. "You saw a world that was changing long before globalization became a mantra for all of us, and you lobbied for Columbia College to become more and more involved in Asia," Bollinger said.

Moody-Adams praised Lung's commitment to "racial, ethnic and socio-economic diversity" at the College, as well as his ongoing "desire to connect students with alumni." Lung is one of the founders of the Asian Columbia Alumni/ae Association and was the group's first president, and, along with other alumni, assisted in the founding of the Columbia Club in Singapore and improved the link between Columbia and various Columbia Clubs in Asia.

Lung's family has become very much a part of the Columbia family. Lung spoke of how his two sisters followed him to New York and enrolled at Barnard, and his brother came to the College. It was while at Columbia that he met his "best friend of 39 years, and my wife of 35 of those years," Yin Yee Lung '74 Barnard. The couple has three children: Jennifer '01E, '08 P&S; Stephanie '04 and Jonathan '05E.

Stephanie Lung, who is president of Columbia College Young Alumni, delivered welcoming remarks and held up before the crowd of approximately 400 alumni, students, parents, faculty, administrators and friends in Low Rotunda her father's copy The Iliad that he had given her upon her acceptance. She drew a laugh when she told of how he had bet that she could not match his GPA, and that four years later, "I was very happy to parade, in his face, my higher GPA." Lung, who spoke afterward, attributed the difference to grade inflation but noted with pride, "Stephanie used to say that she was known at Columbia as Conrad Lung's daughter. Now, I'm known as Stephanie's father."

Lung majored in Oriental studies at the College, then earned a master's and an M.Phil. at Yale, where he taught briefly and was a tutor. In 1977, Lung was hired by a Hong Kong apparel manufacturer to start a marketing operation in New York, Wrightfox International, which was acquired by Jordache Jeans in 1979. He moved to Maurice Sassoon Jeans as v.p. of operations and in 1981 was hired by New York Jean Co. as e.v.p. in charge of merchandising and marketing.

Lung co-founded Sunnex, Inc., a manufacturer and wholesaler of women's career clothing that develops and markets five brands in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe and China, in 1985. The next year, he co-founded Sun On-Sunnex International Holding Corp. in Hong Kong as a buying office for Sunnex. In 1987, Lung co-founded China Silk Enterprise Ltd., which operates manufacturing facilities in the People's Republic of China. In 1992, he co-founded Sun On Trust, a not-for-profit organization that performs charitable work in China.

In 2003, Lung sold Sunnex and its related companies to various Asia investors, and in 2004 he participated, with a group of Asia investors and two College alumni, in a leveraged buy-out of Mudd Jeans in New York. Lung then became its president. In the same year, he co-founded, with a group of College alumni, a consulting and boutique investment banking firm, Ivy Capital Management LLC, as well as a brand management and marketing firm, Collegiate Brand Management Group, both based in New York.

Lung has been extensively involved with the College and alumni affairs. He serves the College as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and as an emeritus member of the Board of Visitors. The College honored him for his distinguished professional achievements with a 2002 John Jay Award.

Alex Sachare '71 and Lisa Palladino