You might wonder how a young Chinese man ended up in Barbourville, Kentucky in the mid-1960’s. The world then was not as multi-cultural as it is today. A Chinese student in the hills of Kentucky was quite an oddity. In the late 1930’s or early 1940’s, my grandfather befriended a Methodist missionary in Asia. This gentleman sang the praises of Union College in a small town in Kentucky. So enamored was my grandfather by this man’s stories of this quaint school that my uncle, Kong-oo Goh, was sent here and graduated in 1952 and later graduated from University of Louisville Medical School. He was so impressed with the education my uncle received that my grandfather filled out the application for me in 1965 when I graduated from high school! On a funny note, he sent it to Union College in Barbourville, KENTURKEY.
In January 1966, during one of the worst snowstorms imaginable, I arrived in Kentucky from Penang, Malaysia where the tropical mean temperature is 95 degrees. Despite my miserable beginning, Union College has turned out to be one the best blessings in my life. The term alma mater, meaning “other mother” in Latin, takes on new meaning when moving to a strange country from the other side of the world. As an 18 year old boy (I would have objected to that term then, but in hindsight, it is appropriate), I was welcomed by some of Union’s finest: Miss Pat, Dr. Frank Gilbert, Mr. Milton Townsend, and Vivian Smith. Everyone on campus endeavored to make me feel at home. A local photographer, Elmer Engle, and his wife Marie “adopted” me as though I were one of their own. How could I not fall in love with Union College and the wonderful people of Kentucky?
Having lived in Kentucky for 45 years now, I find myself happily returning to Union. It was with pleasure and pride that I took my then fiancée, Stevie, there in 1978 to share that part of my life. In years following, we have returned many times for reunions. My classmates have opened their arms and accepted Stevie as though she were a Union alumna as well. In 2004, our oldest son, Jason Goh, became the third generation of our family to graduate from Union.
It was not a difficult decision for my wife and me to honor Union in our will with a legacy gift. We can set a dollar amount on what we choose to give, but what Union has given us is priceless.