Dr. Shang Ik Moon, one of the pillars and founders of Concordia University Irvine, emigrated from Korea to the U.S. as a young man to study and discover his part in God’s work. Recently, the International Center at CUI was renamed the Moon International Center in honor of his lifelong contributions to the university in a myriad of ways.
“It’s really special,” says daughter Sarah Johnson ’91, one of Moon’s three children. “He has always been such a humble person and does what God wants him to do. It’s not until you grow up that you see what that means and how many lives he touched. It feels very good to be able to honor him this way. The university did a wonderful job with the Center.”
The Moon International Center serves international students and is a hub for Concordia’s study abroad programs. Sarah and husband Tab Johnson made a campus-wide gift to help fund the renovation, and to support the new Borland-Manske Center and increase support for the Moon Family Endowment. The Center received new flooring, new paint, new furniture, and a newly-created outdoor patio.
“Our hope is that it will be a place where international students can find a second home where they feel comfortable and make connections with other international students, and also be an inviting area for the balance of the student body to come get acquainted with Concordia’s international outreach program,” Tab says. “Our hope is those types of connections and bonds encourage all students at CUI to look at God’s Great Commission in a very real, personal way.”
Student Saud Altammami was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and is graduating from CUI this semester.
“Instead of going to the library, I prefer to sit in the [Moon International Center’s] lounge, get a cup of coffee and invite my friends from around school,” he says. “I’ve introduced a few to that spot. The lounge area is really nice and well organized. It’s amazing. It has an outside setting, a good view. It’s quiet, which I really appreciate.”
Socializing at the Center, Altammami says he finds “the community that I’ve missed for a while, being a person on my own that has no family around.” More than 150 people, including many local pastors and Moon’s family members, attended a dedication of the newly-renovated space in January. “I wish I could describe how I feel at this moment. I am honored at the same time I am extremely humbled,” said Moon to the gathering. “Your presence here is a great honor I do not deserve. It is what we as servants of God must do anyway.”
The Moon family’s goal with their contributions is to create a global learning atmosphere on campus.
“Although our international students are the primary beneficiaries, our own domestic students will also benefit much from their encounters with international students on campus by cross-cultural exposure and communications,” says Dr. Moon. “The Moon International Center promotes and facilitates such interactions and atmosphere through their designated programs.”
“The ceremony was one of those really special days for my siblings and me,” says Sarah. “We were so excited about it. The grandkids were all there. Everyone loves Papa. To have the new president there and Kurt Krueger, and a bunch of familiar faces who were there in the beginning — like Dale Hartmann, Bob Dargatz and Barbara Manske — gave it a reunion feel.”
Tab says Dr. Moon continues to have great passion for helping international students, and for fulfilling the mission of Concordia Irvine, to take the gospel to all nations.
“To tell Dr. Moon’s story with a place like this so that other students can be encouraged by a young Korean refugee with absolutely nothing, who was picked by God to play a part in the story of this University — we’re hoping other young college students are challenged by Dr. Moon’s story as they’re enjoying this place,” Tab says.