Wofford Terrier

Dr. Andrew H. "Andy" Kang '57

>Charitable Gift Annuity

Kang comes full circle with a gift to Wofford

Andy Kang
In May of 2007, one of the thousands of high school baccalaureate speeches delivered across the county told the story of a young man born in Korea. The oldest of five, the young man lost his parents during North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in the early 1950s. He went on to attend college in Seoul then to a liberal arts college in Spartanburg, SC. Adopted by the college and community, this young man attended medical school at Harvard University, overcame rheumatoid arthritis and used his training to become one of the country’s foremost experts on connective tissue diseases. The man who inspired the speech, delivered by his grandson, Jeffrey Andrew Rotondo, is Dr. Andrew H. “Andy” Kang ’57.

A week later, Kang was attending his own second baccalaureate, commencement and 50th class reunion at Wofford College, and remembering some of the people and places that made a profound impact on his own life and journey to international success.

Kang arrived on the Wofford campus for the first time on April 15, 1955. The result of what he calls “divine intervention,” Kang was attending college in Seoul when as a fluke he decided to attend a Monday morning ecumenical Christian church service. As he was leaving, the chaplain, the late Col. Sid Crumpton ’32, was impressed with his English skills and his education and invited him to come meet him at the 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul later that day.

“He took me to his office, which was a tent, and offered me a Coke,” remembered Kang. “It was my first experience with a Coke, and I didn’t like it.”
Kang, however, did like Crumpton’s offer to help him travel to the United States to study at an American college. After receiving his paternal grandfather’s approval as dictated by Korean custom, and making arrangements for his younger siblings, Kang began the year of paperwork and red tape required to transfer to Wofford.

Arriving in Spartanburg, Kang was greeted by the late Dean Frank Logan ’41.
“I was the only Asian in the airport, and this man came hurrying along right toward me,” remembers Kang. “He shook my hand and after brief greetings he said, ‘Andrew, I’m glad you speak good English.’”

That meeting was the start of a relationship that neither Logan nor Kang could have imagined. Logan and his wife, Madeline, brought Kang into their home during weekends and holidays. He became their son. When they went to the beach for vacation, Kang went with them. He celebrated Christmas with the family and worshiped with them on Sundays.

While Kang was wowing his professors in the classroom and graduating with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Wofford in two years, he also was winning the hearts of the Spartanburg community with his work ethic and courtesy. According to Kang, the late George Dean Johnson, a Spartanburg pediatrician, and his wife, Betty, “shared custody” of Kang with the Logans. Both the Logans and the Johnsons helped raise the funds necessary to send Kang to medical school at Harvard, and Mrs. Johnson collected suits, ties and shoes from among the Church of the Advent congregation to outfit Kang for Boston.

In Boston, Kang met his wife, Ellen, also a medical student at the time.
“We fell head over heels and have been married for 49 years,” says Kang.
During his engagement and medical school training in 1959, Kang was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis. Barely able to function, he wrote this is in a letter to Logan: “… rheumatoid arthritis is an endless disease, only ending in a complete crippling after decades of illness…. With arthritis, the chances are more than 50 percent against me that I would recover.” Kang didn’t just recover enough to marry and continue medical school; he made researching and understanding the disease his mission in life — a mission that has improved the lives of countless individuals diagnosed with the disease and earned him numerous recognitions in the field including the Ho-Am Prize in Medicine from his home country.

Although Kang has retired as chair of the University of Tennessee Department of Medicine, he agreed to return to the university as director of the Center of Excellence for Diseases of Connective Tissues, and he remains active on the National Arthritis Advisory Board of the National Institutes of Health. He and his wife, a retired academic pediatrician, have three daughters — Cynthia, a dermatologist in Knoxville, TN; Audrey, an OB-Gyn for high-risk pregnancies in Nashville, TN; and Edith, a radiologist in Eagan, MI — and five grandchildren. Busy with both his research and his family, Kang nevertheless has maintained a “deep attachment to Wofford.”

“Wofford really dug a deep base for him. The college stabilized, strengthened and launched him,” says Ellen, who recently wrote and published Kang’s biography Tiger, True to Form.

In a sense, Kang’s return to Wofford’s campus in May brought him full circle. No longer dependent on the generosity of others, he recently established a $504,000 gift annuity to endow a scholarship for future Wofford students.
“I feel shy about my relatively modest donation to Wofford in comparison to what Wofford means to me,” says Kang. “I’m grateful to have been able to make this gift and would have liked to have been able to do more.”

Recipients of the scholarship, which will be awarded each year from the interest generated from the endowment principal, will be students who have excelled academically with preference going to students with ancestors of Korean descent. According to Smith Patterson ’67, director of gift planning, the charitable gift annuity will provide the Kangs with extra retirement income and significant tax benefits while leaving a legacy of generosity to the college.

“Dr. Kang is in every way the embodiment of what we hope our graduates will become,” says Wofford President Emeritus Benjamin Dunlap. “We thank and honor him for his achievement, his philanthropy and his loyalty.”

by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89

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