Old Mill graduate donates $100,000 to high school

Computer lab named after former teacher of entrepreneur

June 02, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Twenty-two years ago, 16-year-old Jeong Kim was a standout student in Dan Bredon's computer science course -- the first one offered at Old Mill High School in Millersville.

Bredon knew that Kim was academically gifted, but he couldn't have imagined where those gifts would take the young man who emigrated from Korea in 1975, or how his life would be changed by this student.

Kim, 39, belongs to a new generation of multimillionaires made rich by success in the exploding telecommunications field. His journey from star student to high-tech entrepreneur has taken him a long way from Old Mill High School, but he never forgot the school or the teacher who first saw his potential. Four years ago, Kim enticed Bredon to come work for him -- first at his high-tech start-up, Yurie Systems Inc., and then at Lucent Technologies, the telecommunications giant that bought Kim's company in 1998 for $1 billion.

Yesterday, officials at the school unveiled the "Dan Bredon Computer Lab," made possible by a $100,000 donation from Kim, thought to be the largest gift ever made to an Anne Arundel County public school, according to Old Mill Principal Arlen Liverman. The lab -- which includes 48 new computers and 10 high-speed printers -- more than doubles the school's computer facilities.

Bredon and Kim arrived at Old Mill together yesterday, accompanied by executives from Lucent Technologies. After mingling with his former teaching colleagues in the media center, an admittedly nervous Bredon read his remarks from a prepared speech.

"Yes, I do own a suit," he said. Turning serious, Bredon said Kim's gift honors all teachers who inspire and motivate, but typically go unrecognized. "This shows that teachers can really make a difference and all of you do that every day."

Bredon, 49, recalled a moment of great pride when Kim introduced him to the senior staff at Yurie Systems: "He said, `This is Dan Bredon; he was my mentor.'"

Bredon met Kim when he was 14. He remembers him as "extremely bright" in all subjects, and as an involved student who was on the track team.

The two were friends, as well as teacher and student, and that friendship proved invaluable to Kim in his senior year.

During a difficult time in his life, Kim asked Bredon if he could stay with him for two weeks while he looked for a place of his own.

Bredon suggested that Kim stay with his family for the next eight months, until he was to leave for college. So Kim rented a room from Bredon and worked the graveyard shift at a 7-Eleven before starting his school day at Old Mill. He completed his graduation requirements mid-year, and continued at the convenience store to save money for college. In the fall of 1979, he left to study engineering at the Johns Hopkins University.

"He had something; he just needed a chance," Bredon said. "I always knew he would succeed, but I didn't ever think about the magnitude."

After yesterday's computer lab dedication, Kim said Bredon's willingness to extend a helping hand made a critical difference in his life.

"Teachers can teach subject matter, but they can also teach caring about people," he said. "People remember those teachers."

After Kim graduated from Old Mill, he and Bredon kept in touch sporadically over the years. Kim earned an engineering degree at Johns Hopkins in 1982, joined the Navy and worked on nuclear submarines for several years. In 1992, after completing his Navy service and earning advanced engineering degrees, Kim contacted Bredon about his new business venture, Yurie Systems, named for one of Kim's two daughters. The telecommunications company developed equipment that combines voice, data and video for Internet transmission.

"I came down here [to Landover] to meet him for dinner, and he tried to talk me into coming to work here," Bredon recalled. "I didn't really take it seriously at first, but he called me up the next day and told me to trust him on this one, and I took his advice and came."

After 24 years of teaching, Bredon went to work at Yurie Systems in September 1996.

"It was a pretty big challenge," he said. "At first it was pretty intimidating when you don't have any background and everybody else had a doctorate or a master's."

Bredon joined a company on the fast track. In 1996 and 1997, the firm was a worldwide leader in sales of networking equipment, and Kim was racking up "entrepreneur of the year" awards. In May 1998, Lucent Technologies acquired the 6-year-old business for $1 billion in cash. The deal, which netted Kim $560 million, made him one of the "40 richest Americans under 40," according to Fortune magazine.

Kim, who lives in Potomac, now heads Lucent's Optical Networking Group and spends a good deal of time at the company's New Jersey headquarters.

Bredon also works at Lucent, on the technical staff in the division that purchased Yurie Systems. Despite the substantial increase in his income since leaving Old Mill, he still lives in the Pasadena house he's owned for 13 years.

The two men don't see each other on a daily basis anymore, but they meet for lunch when they can.

"Now he's the teacher," Bredon said. "But we're still friends."

Kim's gift to Old Mill High School wasn't his only act of philanthropy. Last year he pledged $5 million to the University of Maryland's School of Engineering -- where he earned his engineering doctorate in 1991 -- to fund an endowment that will pay for student scholarships, faculty research and a new building. He also gave $1 million to the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees.

Old Mill math teacher Paul S. Bunting said he enjoys telling the story of Bredon and his star student to his classes.

"I'm hoping something like that will happen to me," he said.

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