Kenneth Wang’s MIT influences go way back. His late father, Cheng C. Wang, SM ‘46, founded U.S. Summit in 1948 with three other MIT alumni to capitalize on untapped markets in Asia. Today, Kenneth Wang serves as president of the successful New York-based global marketing and distribution company. “Although not terribly effusive, my father was very proud of having attended MIT,” he says.
Whereas his father arrived as a Chinese army officer studying during World War II, Wang’s own campus experience was flavored by nationwide protests against the Vietnam War. “It was an exciting time to be in Cambridge,” he says. As he studied economics under the likes of Paul Samuelson and Bob Solow, Wang made his campus home at his fraternity, Phi Kappa Sigma. “That’s what made MIT work for me on a social scale,” he says. His son, a member of the Class of 2010, is also enjoying his time at MIT, albeit in a rival fraternity.
After graduation, Kenneth Wang worked in shipping and banking, and he earned an MBA at Harvard Business School. Then the appeal of entrepreneurial freedom led him into the family business. “I suspect it is in the nature of many MIT people to not love taking orders,” he says.
In 1980, Wang joined Summit’s oil refining business; later he focused on its distribution businesses, and he became president in 1996. He also owns two golf courses in the New York City area, which he describes as “a hobby business, at least until it makes a profit.”
Throughout his career, Wang has been an active volunteer for MIT. He’s a member of the MIT Corporation and has served on several development and visiting committees. He’s a former president of the MIT Club of New York, a past member of the Association’s board, and, as of July 1, president of the Association for a one-year term. His outstanding efforts have earned him a Henry B. Kane ‘24 Award for fund-raising and a Harold E. Lobdell ‘17 Distinguished Service Award. His donations to MIT have supported the economics department, graduate-student financial aid, and several Shakespeare programs,among other things.
Why give to MIT? “Simply put, it makes one feel good to contribute, and particularly to a cause as worthy as MIT,” Wang says. “It is a wonderfully pure place–ecumenical, fair, and committed to making things better. Everyone should be encouraged to give it a try–to experience the pleasure of giving, even in tough economic times.”
This year, Wang wants to increase alums’ connections to one another and MIT. “As we get older, we tend to turn to sources of constancy, confidence, and caring,” he says. “In a highly changeable world, MIT is actually a pretty good source for all three. There is a lot of loyalty and pride among the alumni population, although we may not always want to admit it. This is a time when we should be helping MIT, MIT should be helping us, and we should be helping each other. There is a very, very powerful network waiting to be tapped.”