Kimmy Duong, an accomplished tech entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a refugee who has overcome countless obstacles to achieve success in life, will receive the Mason Medal, George Mason University’s highest honorary award, at the 2023 Spring Commencement on Thursday, May 18, at EagleBank Arena.
Born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, in 1945, Duong earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Law from the University of Saigon in 1966. She started her career working for the Ministry of Social Welfare before joining IBM in 1968, where she worked until she escaped from the communist government in 1975. She came to the United States with just $30 in her pocket.
Despite the challenges she faced as a refugee, Duong's belief in education, hard work, and family guided her. While still in a refugee camp, she secured employment with IBM through a representative at the camp. She moved to Northern Virginia and continued her work with IBM while raising seven nephews and nieces and pursuing multiple side jobs to make ends meet.
In 1994, Duong joined Pragmatics, where she currently serves as vice chairwoman and CFO. Over the past 30 years, she has overseen finance, legal, facilities management, and human resources departments, playing an instrumental role in the significant growth of the company.
In addition to her professional success, Duong has been active in philanthropy for over a decade. In 2011, she and her husband, Long Nguyen, donated $5 million to George Mason University for what is now known as the Long and Kimmy Nguyen Building, and in 2015, she established the Kimmy Duong Foundation (KDF). The KDF supports a range of health, education, and welfare initiatives in the United States and Vietnam, and has established multiple scholarship programs with endowments of more than $4 million that administered by local universities.
Duong's commitment to philanthropy is evident through the KDF's scholarship program centered in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The program has awarded 218 scholarships to date and plans to award 150 more in 2023. During the pandemic, the KDF started a program to support families dealing with economic hardship, which has benefited 160 families since 2020.
Through her philanthropic work, Duong aims to give back to the United States and Vietnam and to spread a message of service and gratitude to everyone she impacts. She believes that the investment of the United States in a refugee like her has been rewarded with a lasting legacy of good works, and she hopes to inspire others to pay it forward.
At a scholarship breakfast on campus this spring, Duong shared her story.
“Education is the cornerstone of life,” Duong told those in attendance, saying many in her generation worked multiple jobs to send their children to college. “Now, we are giving back.”