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Dr. Shang Ik Moon, University Co-Founder, On the Future of Education at Concordia

Rev. Dr. Shang Ik Moon


Rev. Dr. Shang Ik Moon has lived a life of pain and miracles on his way to becoming a co-founder of Concordia University Irvine, an academic dean, a professor, and a mentor to and supporter of the university’s many international students. As a boy, he survived the outbreak of the Korean War, making his way perilously through enemy lines, only to find himself alone at the age of 14, foraging desperately for food and shelter.

“That’s when God came into my life with a solution I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. If I were to compare the stream of life and its activities to a traveler who is journeying through unknown territories, I see a series of doors through which I enter each territory. Humanly speaking, the journey begins at birth and ends at death. In between are many doors along the way which marks the chapters of my life.

“Some doors were already closed and locked up upon my arrival. Others are still open. The puzzling thing about this is that many of these doors are unmarked. Not knowing what to expect upon entry, I could only stumble in, hoping for the best! What was going on was the actuation of the Master Plan by the Master Architect. Only when I looked back, did I see the sign on the door, ‘CHRIST COLLEGE IRVINE!’” – now Concordia University Irvine.

Dr. Moon thought his door would say something like “study in America and go back to Korea as a missionary.” The Master Plan for his life was different: First, he would stay in America to study, first earning an Associate degree in a pre-seminary program at St. John's College in Winfield, Kansas, then a B.A. in Sociology from Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a Masters of Divinity in Theology from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and a Masters in Sociology from Washington University, also in St. Louis. But he wasn’t “Dr. Moon” yet – that came with his Ph.D. in Sociology of Religion from St. Louis University.

Next, things got really exciting as Dr. Moon was selected by the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church in 1975 to be one of a small group of men tasked with opening a new Christian University somewhere in the American West. “My disappointment at the closed door, ‘MISSIONARY TO KOREA,’ was, in retrospect, a blessing in disguise for me, as Concordia University became a source of much joy and gratitude.”

After an exhaustive search that turned up no suitable sites, The Irvine Company, the master-planner of the City of Irvine, offered the search team what Dr. Moon recalls as “a barren hill and a few rocks” that turned out to be the perfect site for a private university. So began Dr. Moon’s life’s work, helping to establish the new college.

“We had to set everything up and figure it out,” he says. “In retrospect, my life to that point gave me an idea about how to administer a college,” so he dived into every detail, even poring over the design of the university’s bathrooms. Within five years, the school had accomplished something miraculous: becoming fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in an unprecedentedly quick time. Dr. Moon went on to become Concordia’s academic dean, responsible for the school’s curriculum and academic policies, and also taught psychology and sociology.

Planning for Concordia’s Future – “Adapt & Improve”

Dr. Moon remembers clearly the commitment Irvine’s founders made to education. “They wisely envisioned that the City of Irvine would have four foundational educational institutions: excellent K-12 educational facilities, and three excellent higher education opportunities, a public university, UCI, a community college, Irvine Valley College, and a private university, Concordia. This vision found its way into the Master Plan of the City of Irvine from its inception, and it is now one of the sacred trusts, an expression of the vision of the city. And it has become a reality!”

Concordia University is still in its young adulthood, Dr. Moon says. “The university is full of vigor and vitality! Having acquired the full accreditation early on just as our good neighbor, the University of California Irvine, did, and having continuously strived for educational excellence, Concordia has gained a reputation as an excellent Southern California higher education institution. However, this very success in turn poses challenges of its own in the realm of managed growth and development. In rapidly changing times, the campus master plan of the yester-years becomes inadequate. It should be flexible enough to ‘adapt’ to emerging realities so that it can ‘improve’ its services to students and its constituents in the community."

“Adapt & Improve” is the theme of the university’s current proposal to revise its current master plan – a plan that was first approved by the City of Irvine 25 years ago and last updated in 2005 – to create a more hands-on education experience for future students, while strictly adhering to the limits the city has placed on the total square-footage of university buildings and total dorm beds. More on this plan can be found at

Dr. Moon is a big supporter of the master plan revisions. “Through a carefully revised campus master plan that involves no large-scale alterations or aesthetic concerns and addresses traffic congestion,” he says, “Concordia is proposing not only ecologically sound and aesthetically pleasing changes in its campus, but also an opportunity to better serve the educational needs of our students and address the needs of our neighbors.”

To the university’s neighbors, Dr. Moon says, “We feel privileged to be surrounded by neighbors who have such high appreciation for the value of education, and we are committed to ‘Adapt & Improve,’ so they will be proud to associate with us as their neighborhood school. We want our neighbors to feel an emotional co-ownership of Concordia, because their locational identity is Concordia’s locational identity. In a sense, Concordia is their university, and I pray that they will come to know the campus better, with all that it offers, and support our plans for the future.”

To maintain its position as Irvine’s exceptional private university, Concordia seeks public support for its “Adapt & Improve” revisions to its master plan. You can express your support by logging onto

“Please support us so we can continue to maintain the call to educational excellence!” Dr. Moon asks.

The Moon Family Endowment Fund

Rev. Dr. Shang Ik Moon’s compassion for Concordia University’s international students is alive in the Moon Family Endowment Fund and its International Student Hospitality Fund and International Sister School Student Scholarship Supplemental Fund.

“My wife Sharon and I want newly-arriving international students to be met at the airport, given their first meal on campus with an international host, and shown great hospitality to demonstrate that Concordia is a caring community with a friendly environment, guided by Christian love. That’s much the way I was cared for when I first arrived in the U.S.,” Moon says.

Because many international students have limited ability to bear the cost of higher education in the U.S., the Endowment also provides scholarships and grants that may make it possible for a student to open a “life door” marked “Opportunity To Study At Concordia.”


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