Graduates of West Virginia University have been making their mark on the nation and world for more than 145 years, including three extraordinary Mountaineers who will be honored by the University for their accomplishments.
Kyung Won “K.W.” Lee is known for bringing a voice to poverty in Appalachia, Korean immigrants, and other important national and international stories. Joel Newman has worked throughout his career to ensure our world’s food supply meets the needs of a growing global population while remaining safe for the consumers. Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard is a visionary who connected the world with the invention of the cable modem.
These extraordinary accomplishments have earned them a spot in the WVU Alumni Association’s prestigious Academy of Distinguished Alumni the highest honor awarded to WVU alumni. The trio will be honored during a reception and induction ceremony on Friday, Feb. 22, at The Erickson Alumni Center.
“When you look at the impact these Mountaineers have had on both our nation and world, it is truly impressive,” said Stephen L. Douglas, President & CEO, WVU Alumni Association. “It is uplifting to the entire WVU community to know that WVU played a role in helping mold their success.”
Kyung Won “K.W.” Lee made his mark as the “godfather of Asian American journalism.” He immigrated to the United States in 1950 on a student visa and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Perley Isaac School of Journalism. After completing his master’s degree at the University of Illinois in 1955, Lee became the first Asian immigrant hired by a mainstream daily newspaper.
K.W. took the journalism world by storm when he initiated a series of investigatory pieces on Korean immigrant Chol Soo Lee who was racially profiled and wrongfully convicted for murder in 1973. His articles brought the case national and international attention.
Over the course of five years, from Chol Soo Lee’s retrial and subsequent acquittal, K.W. produced over 100 articles shedding light on Chol Soo Lee’s plight and the inconsistencies surrounding his first trial. These papers are now archived at the University of California, Davis.
To K.W., the Chol Soo Lee movement demonstrated a lack of political voice and community organization among Korean Americans. In response he founded the Koreatown Weekly, which was in publication for five years, and later established the English Edition to the Korea Times in Los Angeles. Lee also founded the Korean American Journalists Association at a time when only a half dozen fellow Koreans worked in mainstream media. Now they number an estimated 250 journalists.
During his career, he has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Asian American Journalists Association’s first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, the John Anson Ford Award by the Human Relations Commission of L.A. County, and the Free Spirit Award from the Freedom Forum in 1994 making him the first Asian American to receive the award. In 1997, he was inducted into the Newseum’s Journalism History Gallery. In 2000, he was profiled in “Crusaders, Scoundrels, Journalists: The Newseum’s Most Intriguing Newspeople,” alongside the fellow “barrier breakers” W.E.B. DuBois, Alice Stone Blackwell, and Randy Shilts.
Now in semi-retirement, K.W. continues to serve as a voice for the Korean American community. He has lectured on investigative journalism in communities of color, inspiring a new generation of Asian American journalists seeking social justice and fair representation for their communities.
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