Exactly 10 years ago, USC’s electrical engineering department was named as the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering. Ming Hsieh’s endowment of $35 million ranked as the largest academic department naming at USC, and one of the largest ever to name an electrical engineering department anywhere in the world.
Hsieh is an inventor, entrepreneur, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a proud USC alumnus. His generous gift has helped USC Viterbi’s Electrical Engineering Department grow into one of the best in the world.
On Monday, October 24th USC honored Ming Hsieh with a reception and unveiling of a relief in the Electrical Engineer building. Dean Yannis Yortsos, department co-chairs Sandeep Gupta (systems) and Eun Sok Kim (electrophysics), Provost Michael Quick, Ming Hsieh Institute director Shri Narayanan, undergraduate student Michelle Zhong, and Ming Hsieh himself all spoke and shared stories.
Ming Hsieh’s family, including his wife, parents, two children, and brother and sister-in-law were all in attendance as well. In fact, Ming’s son shares a birthday with the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering – both turning 10 years old on the same day.
Calling his life an “American dream story,” Dean Yannis Yortsos pointed to Mr. Hsieh’s immigrant roots and his “hard work, dedication and commitment, imagination, creativity, and astute business acumen.”
Dean Yortsos was also proud to mention that since the department naming, there have been two National Medals of Science winners, three new NAE members (four including Ming Hsieh), three MIT TR35 winners, and several NSF Career Award winners and IEEE medals. “This exhilarating journey has only been possible because of the confidence, support and commitment from the Hsieh family,” said the Dean.
“Ming is directly responsible for where we are today,” said Electrical Engineering Department co-Chair Sandeep Gupta. “He has enabled countless professors and students to ask questions, pursue goals, and achieve a high level of success.”
Added fellow co-Chair Eun Sok Kim: “It’s clear to me that Ming gives and gives because he deeply values helping others.”
Throughout Monday’s event, the same words kept coming up over and over, from speaker after speaker, to describe Hsieh: kind, gentle, patient, and humble.
These are not attributes immediately associated with the success of an electrical engineering department. But Ming Hsieh, through his example as a person as well as his financial gift, has helped make them part of the culture in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering.
USC Viterbi as a whole is committed to the concept, put forward by Dean Yortsos, of “Engineering +.” More than ever before, engineers should be focused on solving real-world problems and working to add real value to the lives of people everywhere. The qualities embodied by Ming Hsieh – kindness, gentleness, patience, humility – are necessary traits for any engineer who wants to understand the world, help people, and solve global, cross-cultural problems.
At the event, USC Provost Michael Quick said, “names matter, and institutions often take on the personality of the people they are associated with.” In the case of Ming Hsieh, his spirit of curiosity, dedication, and community building has been infused into the fabric of the department and entire university.
Electrical Engineering Professor Shri Narayanan, director of the Ming Hsieh Institute, spoke about Hsieh’s commitment to community. “At our annual research festival, Ming never misses an opportunity to participate, talk to students, and proudly give out prizes. This is not something he has to do, but he truly believes in our community and wants to share in the department’s growth.”
“I’m so proud to be a part of this wonderful department, build on our future, and share future successes together,” Mr. Hsieh said at the closing of his speech.
Of everything that he has given the department, Ming Hsieh’s name itself has been the most valuable.