Moraga Resident and '05 MBA Graduate Contribute to Saint Mary's
Diversity scholarships have been established by the School of Economics and Business Administration at Saint Mary's College that will benefit students from diverse backgrounds who wish to study in the school's graduate business programs.
"These are the first diversity scholarships for the school's graduate programs. The establishment of such scholarships is part of our efforts to support and implement the diversity goals identified in the College's Academic Blueprint and Building-on-Strengths strategic plan," said Zhan Li, dean of the School of Economics and Business Administration.
Deju, a Moraga resident who is an executive with EnergySolutions, said the scholarship in his family's name recognizes "the importance of the Hispanic community's continued economic growth and the need to improve opportunities for qualified Hispanic students." It will fund scholarships for highly academically qualified students in the MBA programs.
The Lighthouse Scholarship for Diversity is funded by Song Woo, who received an MBA from Saint Mary's in 2005 and is the founder and president of Lighthouse Management Group in San Jose. The company, which specializes in staffing senior-level management for accounting and finance departments, was honored in the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal as the fastest growing private company in Silicon Valley in 2009.
A Journey That Began in Cuba
Deju said he decided to establish the diversity scholarship because he knows what it's like to need a helping hand. When he was 14 years old, he was one of 14,000 children who left Cuba between 1960 and 1962 as part of an exodus known as Operation Peter Pan. The youngsters were sent to Miami by their parents, who were concerned about reports that the children would be taken from them under the new post-revolutionary government of Fidel Castro.
"They said we came to Neverland," Deju recalled, "because we could never return."
With the help of the Catholic Diocese of Miami, the children were placed with friends, relatives and group homes in 35 states. Deju's benefactors sent him to English classes at a women's college in Miami, and he went on to earn a B.S. and Ph.D. from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
He helped to build the first environmental science and engineering company in America, International Technology (now Shaw Group), and has been western regional president of Chemical Waste Management, a founder and president of ISG Resources and president of Headwaters Resources Group. He also taught at Saint Mary's and other colleges, and he is currently director of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership at JFK University.
Through the years, Deju, whose son, Michael, is a freshman at Saint Mary's, has never forgotten the generosity of those who helped him to succeed. "I think it's important to create opportunities for people like me who couldn't afford them otherwise," he said. Providing assistance for Hispanic students is essential, he said, if they are going to participate in and reap the rewards of globalization, which he called "the economic engine of the 21st century."
From Working the Fields to Running a Business
Woo also rose from humble beginnings. His family immigrated to the United States when he was 4 years old, and he lived with them and other relatives in a crowded trailer park in Salinas. Everyone worked in the carnation fields, tending the plants and picking the flowers to be sent off to market.
My parents were "always stressing education, education," he says, so he went off to college and earned a B.A. in business analysis and finance from San Francisco State University in 1998. After college, he moved up to leadership positions in two large recruiting and staffing firms.
While continuing to work, he enrolled in the graduate business program at Saint Mary's. "The MBA program equipped me with the tools I needed to successfully launch my start-up business with confidence," he says."Each day, each week, each month, each year that went by in the MBA program, I just felt stronger and stronger as a business person. So starting up a business did not seem so risky anymore."
Just months after receiving his MBA, he struck out on his own and started Lighthouse Management Group. The company has experienced triple-digit growth, and Woo has been recognized by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal in its "40 under 40" list of rising stars of Silicon Valley.
"Diversity is a huge part of my business," Woo said, explaining why he decided to fund the Lighthouse Scholarship for Diversity, which is designed to attract Asian-Americans to the SMC graduate business programs. At Lighthouse, he said, "the team is a melting pot, and I've always been a promoter of diversity."
In addition to the two new diversity scholarships, the School also offers Wilder scholarships for incoming undergraduate and Professional MBA students at Saint Mary's who demonstrate academic excellence, ambition and great potential.
Photo of Raul Deju and Dean Zhan Li by Thomas Vo '11