2011 Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree
Known as “Mr. Oil,” Dong-Soo Hur MS’68, PhD’71 is the chair of the board of GS Caltex, the oldest private oil company in the Republic of Korea. The corporation is a leading force in the Korean energy industry, with a 30 percent share of that nation’s petroleum market.
Hur grew up in Seoul, and after earning his bachelor’s degree at Yonsei University, enrolled at UW-Madison. “I strongly believed that chemical engineering would be a critical factor for the development of the Korean economy,” he says. “Therefore, I decided to continue my studies at the University of Wisconsin, which was the best school in chemical engineering at the time.”
When Hur graduated, he was only the fourth Korean to earn a doctorate in chemical engineering at the UW. He became a research engineer with the American oil company Chevron. In 1973, he returned to Korea and joined Honam Oil, the predecessor to GS Caltex, and rose through the executive ranks, becoming vice president in 1978 and president in 1991. He guided the company through Asia’s oil crises of the 1980s and 1990s and laid the foundation for exporting gasoline to Japan and the United States. Today, GS Caltex operates the fourth largest single-site refinery in the world.
With GS Caltex, Hur has been a tireless advocate of diversification and sustainability, leading the company into the gas, fuel cell, and renewable power industries. Environmental issues are currently one of Hur’s leading interests, and he chairs the Korean Business Council for Sustainable Development and serves as auditor for the Global Green Growth Institute. He’s also head of business dialogue on the Presidential Committee on Green Growth.
In 2005, Hur received South Korea’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Civil Merit, Mugunghwa Medal. His other honors include the Industrial Service Medal (1985); the Order of Industrial Service Merit (bronze, 1995, and gold, 2000); the Korean Resource Economics Association Award for Energy Entrepreneurs; and the Order of Culture Merit, Geumgwan (2012).
"... the driving force behind it all has been the knowledge and experience that I gained during my time at UW."
Outside of work, Hur promotes the play of Baduk, a board game similar to the Japanese game Go, and he was elected head of Korea’s Baduk Association and its Amateur Baduk Association. Under his watch, GS Caltex fielded one of the nation’s most successful women’s volleyball teams, champions of the Korean Super League each year from 1991 to 1999.
Hur is also deeply dedicated to improving education within the community as a board member of KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) and Yonsei University.
First of all, it is my great honor and privilege to accept this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award. I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to the University of Wisconsin and our alumni for this special award.
After graduating from university in Korea in 1966, I strongly believed that Chemical Engineering would be a critical factor for the development of the Korean economy. Therefore, I decided to continue my studies at the University of Wisconsin, which was the best school in Chemical Engineering at the time.
Among the things that I remember the most about Wisconsin, aside from the lack of sleep for the first three years, were the beautiful UW’s campus surrounded by Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, and the Chemical Engineering course called Transport Phenomena, which was coauthored by Professors Bird, Stewart, and Lightfoot. Passing this tough course at the qualifying examinations allowed me to advance to the PhD program.
I still remember the warm advice and mentoring from Professor S. L. Cooper and Professor Hyuk Yoo during this challenging and interesting period at UW. And I still keep in contact with them to this day.
During my years as a PhD student, I lived off the research assistant scholarship and had no time to visit Korea or even travel to other cities in the United States. My hard work paid off in the end, and I became the fourth Korean to receive a doctorate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
After completing my studies at UW in 1971, I started my career as a research engineer with Chevron Corporation. In November 1973, I returned back to Korea, joined GS Caltex, and have been working for the company for the last 38 years.
GS Caltex supplies more than 30 percent of petroleum product demand in Korea and operates the world’s largest aromatics plant and the world’s 4th largest refinery at a single site. Currently, we are expanding into new businesses such as upstream, LNG, electric power and new and renewable energy. GS Caltex is taking a leap forward to become “The Leader in Providing Total Energy Service” in Asia.
In 2002, I organized the Korea Business Council for Sustainable Development (KBCSD) to share ideas and cooperate for sustainable growth in consideration of the environment, society and economy. In recognition of my efforts in this regard, I was awarded the Order of Civil Merit, Mugunghwa Medal, the highest medal that the Korean government can bestow on a Korean civilian.
For more than four decades, my passion has always been the Energy and Petrochemical fields. And the driving force behind it all has been the knowledge and experience that I gained during my time at UW.
Thank you once again for this honor. I will consider it as an encouragement to further contribute to world economic growth and develop clean energy for our future generations, and I will always remain as a proud alumnus of the University of Wisconsin. Thank you very much.