George Yen

Prescott College AffiliationSupporter
Programoncampus
Area of StudyPolitical Science
Graduation Year1970

A freighter ship from Yokohama, Japan called the Oriental Pearl brought George Yen to the US in 1964. George was on his way to Prescott College to take part in a radical new experiment in education.

“To be honest, I knew little about Prescott,” George said. “I wasn’t a very good student in high school so I liked the idea of classes being pass/fail. It allowed me the space to find myself.”

George studied political science under founding President Dr. Ronald Nairn and soon found himself pushed to meet outsiders and asked to represent the college as a student spokesman.

“I got the inkling that if I had any talent it would be in oral communication,” he said. “Other people saw it before I did. Of course now it’s evident to me as I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for 17 years.” George has risen through the ranks of the international public speaking organization to District Governor in Taiwan and recently to International Director.

After Prescott College, George earned an MA in international relations at the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He spent eight years in New York working for J. Gerber, an international trading company, where he rose to head their Far East department. Seeing how a smaller department struggled within the larger corporation, George had a stroke of insight.

“I told my bosses the best way to deal with the unprofitability was to spin it off into an independent company – and I would buy it out,” he said. Not only did they agree, but they let him have the company on a promise to pay 20 percent of its future profits before taxes over the next five years, no less than half a million dollars.

“In retrospect that’s a tremendous leap of faith on their part toward a 34-year-old assistant vice president, and a tremendous leap of audacity on mine,” George said. “I was able to think creatively. I attribute that to the philosophy at Prescott [College].”

George’s independent company found tremendous success in the following years, allowing him to pay his former employers more than promised. He achieved the proverbial American Dream: he earned his first million dollars, married an American woman, and had three children, two cars, and a beautiful home in New Jersey.

In the late 80s, with a shift toward international protectionism and changes in currency exchange rates, the business came crashing down. George’s personal life quickly followed. With the collapse of his American Dream, he decided to return to his native Taiwan to begin again, but not before returning to Prescott.

“The last time I stopped by Prescott was 18 years ago, when I was in the pits of my life,” George said. “I was ready to go back to Taiwan empty-handed – so I came here to retrace my steps. Learning that Prescott College had survived a dark time as well with its closure in 1974 made the visit quite poignant.”

George currently lives in Taipei with his Taiwanese wife and runs four successful companies in the metal manufacture and trading industry with the aid of his youngest American-born daughter.

“If life is a journey of discovery, education should help you discover what your gift is,” George said. “Prescott College was ahead of its time 40 years ago in teaching students how to think, as opposed to cramming knowledge.

“The outdoor experience is an integral part of that type of education as well, which has also helped the school carve out a niche in the field of environmental studies, an area of vital importance that the rest of the world is only now coming to recognize. I think perhaps being of the charter class I am the first seed of that. At the half-century mark it has become clear Prescott College’s time has come.”