My Undergraduate Years (1954-58) in Pittsburgh
- My American friends are telling me I used Pittsburgh as a stepping
stone to my American life. That means between my
high school years in Korea (1947-54) and my
Princeton graduate program (1958-62).
- Yet, I spent the best four yours of my life in Pittsburgh. I was an
undergraduate student at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, known these
days as Carnegie Mellon University.
- I came to the United States from Korea in 1954 to become a freshman
at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. After my
graduation in 1958, I went to Princeton University to get my PhD
degree in 1961. I was able to complete my graduate program in
three years thanks to the solid education I received from Carnegie Tech.
During my years there (1954-58), Pittsburgh was a steel city set up by
from Scotland. This Jones and Laughlin
steel plant was within six kilometers from the city center. Let us
look at some other photos.
- Steel mills along the Monongahela River.
- Steel mills Close-up view of one the factories.
- Steel mills Close-up view their furnaces.
All these steel mills were closed down, and Pittsburgh is now a new city producing
modern high-tech items. Click here
for a story of Pittsburgh.
- Thanks to the established steel industrial base, the aluminum industry
started in Pittsburgh.
for the pioneer of this industry. There are thus many aluminum buildings
in Pittsburgh. They are still shiny.
When I took a photo of this spot (left) in 2004, I did not know I was standing at the same place in 1958 after
graduation from Carnegie Tech and ready to go to Princeton. I was in a jungle of aluminium buildings.
Everybody knows Pittsburgh as America's steel city, but not many people know this city served also at
starting point for the aluminium industry.
Pittsburgh International Airport was called the Greater Pittsburgh Airport
until the first British Air flight came from London in 1985.
- When I came to Pittsburgh from Korea on September 3, 1954, I arrived at
old terminal looking like this.
- This building was completely torn down, and a new terminal building was
built at the other end of the major runway. The old parking area is now used
for many private airplanes. I was there on September 3, 2004, exactly 50 years
after my first arrival date, and I took some photos there.
- funny-looking private airplanes.
- Kerry-Edward plane was also there. It
was an election year. John Kerry was the presidential candidate from the
Democratic Party running against George W. Bush. His running mate was
John Edward. Why Pittsburgh? Kerry wife is
Teresa Heinz, super-rich heiress to the Heinz company based in Pittsburgh.
- New Terminal. When I went to the airport in 2004,
I went to the new terminal first, and found the environment so strange that I went
to the information booth to ask whether I was at the right place. At this booth
was this lady who came to Pittsburgh from Germany in 1952, two years before
I did. We congratulated each other and produced this photo. With this new
building, the airport is now called the "Pittsburgh International Airport."
- One of the Street Cars in those good old days.
- Bush Hotel in Seattle. On my way from
Seoul to Pittsburgh in 1954, I had to stay at two hotels. One was the Shoto
Hotel in Tokyo, and the other was the Bush Hotel in Seattle. In 1995, I was
fortunate enough to visit the Bush Hotel in Seattle on Jackson Street. The
building was still solid, and the hotel lobby was still well organized.
I used this elevator to go to my room
on the third floor. The round clock-like floor indicator was still
operational. This hotel was originally built and owned a Japanese
American. The word "Bush" in Japanese means warrior or Samurai.
- Watermelon Bank.
After my arrival, I had to open an account at a bank called
"Mellon National Bank." I thought it has something to do with
delicious melons, but it took me more than fifty years to learn
about this bank and its founder. Yet, it is still a watermelon
bank to me.
- Railroad Station. During my time (1954-58),
this building was called the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, and more people
used railroads than airlines. These days, it is an apartment building called
and its ground floor is used for an AMTRAK passenger facilities.
I used to come to this station to greet my guests.
On October 20, 1954, I went to there to greet a very important guest
from Korea. See next photo. Here is another
photo of this building taken in one of the earlier years when it was
serving its original purpose.
- Mr. Kim Won-Kyu was the principal of the high
school which I attended in Korea. He was a dedicated educator and set many
examples for Korea's secondary educational system. He was eager to send
his students to the United States to compete in the world stage. On October
21, 1954. He visited Carnegie Tech to meet with the school officials as
well as his former students. In 1954, it was impossible for Korean
high-school principals to visit the United States, but Mr. Kim produced this
miracle. This was also a total surprise to American educators. Indeed, his
visit was a major news-making event for Pittsburgh newspapers. In this photo
which appeared in the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mr. Kim Won-Kyu is in the middle. On his left is
his former student who was one year ahead of me both at his high school and at
Carnegie Tech. He came to Pittsburgh one year ahead of me, and was very helpful
to me during my first year in the United States.
- Ten months earlier (December 1953), I was a
graduating senior greeting General Maxwell Taylor who visited Mr. Kim's
high school in Seoul. Gen. Taylor was the commander of the U.S. Forces
in Korea (1953-55), consisting of 350,000 combat-ready American troops.
I looked like this in 1954.
- My American Connections
before coming to the United States.
Passport Photo. I came to the U.S. with a Korean passport
containing this photo taken one month after my high-school graduation.
I was still wearing the school uniform.
- Letters I wrote to one of my friends in
Korea during my first three years in Pittsburgh (written in Korean). Here is
a moving story he wrote about himself
- Letter I received from one of my
friends, 50 years after graduation.
Gone with the Wind. This was the first
cinema I saw in the United States. This movie was forbidden in Korea
(South) at that time because the Northern army won in the American Civil
War. Koreans in the South did not want the North to win.
- Vivian Leigh acted as Scarlet O'Hara
in this classic movie. Photos from "The Story of Gone with the Wind"
(National Publishers, New York, 1967). Vivian Leigh is still a popular
figure. Here is the
Wikipedia page about
- Christmas of 1956. There were not many
Koreans in the United States at that time, but there were some in Pittsburgh
thanks to the universities and hospitals. They used to get together during
| They had to hide their knees |
- In September 1954, I looked like this.
I was a very skinny boy!
- One year later, in 1955, I became
- By 1957, I looked like this. This photo
is from my Carnegie Tech class album (Class of 1958).
- In 1958, right before the graduation.
- Knees. My coed classmates
had to hide their knees (1954-58).
- When they sat down, they had to cover
- Cheer leaders also had to cover
their knees. I like to see these ladies again!
- These days (2004), ladies know how to
take care of their knees instead of hiding them. This photo was taken
in front of Margaret Morrison-Carnegie Hall, and its entrance is behind
the Margaret Morrison Arch
(photo taken in 1957). This complex was called Margaret Morrison College,
and was dedicated to women's higher education. When I was a student
(1954-58), I did not think much of this place because women were
still women in college, and it was unthinkable to sit down with girls
studying there. At that time, Ivy League universities did not
admit women. The Carnegie family had enough foresight to attach
women's programs to a male-dominated engineering college. Thanks to
those ladies, Carnegie Mellon enjoys first-class liberal arts
programs, including literature, education, music, painting, drama,
architecture, as well as business and economics.
- Vibrating Knees.
While I was
a student there, there was a crazy mixed-up boy. When he was drafted,
we were confident that the U.S. Army would straighten him up. Alas,
he changed the world. These days, I am so proud to tell everybody that
I was born in the same year as Elvis the King came to this world.
- Korean Girl with exposed knees,
and with covered knees. While at Carnegie,
I used to get letters from this Korean girl also studying in the United States.
She later became
In Korea, the school year starts in March instead of September in USA. Thus,
I spent one smester at the Engineering College of Seoul National University
before coming to USA in September. This girl shared the same freshman class
with me for one semester in Korea. Meeting a girl during the freshman year
in collage. How else can you get married?