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Immigrants Of The Day: Hyman Rickover of Poland, Ming Hsieh of China, and Levi Strauss of Germany

by Kevin R. Johnson

Admiral Hyman Rickover (Poland)


Admiral Hyman George Rickover, United States Navy, (18981986) was known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy," which as of July 2007 had produced 200 nuclear-powered submarines, and 23 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and cruisers. With his unique personality, political connections, responsibilities and depth of knowledge regarding naval nuclear propulsion, Rickover became the longest-serving active duty military officer in U.S. history with 63 years of continuous service.  Rickover's substantial legacy of technical achievements includes the United States Navy's continuing record of zero reactor accidents.

Hyman Rickover was born to a Jewish family in Poland, which at that time prior to World War I was under Russian occupation. Escaping the fate of his fellow ethnic citizens, well before World War I the young Rickover immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1905 after fleeing anti-Semitic pogroms. Living initially on the seething East Side of Manhattan, the family moved two years later to Lawndale, a community of Chicago, where his father continued his work as a tailor.

Rickover began work to help support the family at nine years of age, and later said of his childhood that it was a time of "hard work, discipline, and a decided lack of good times."

Admiral Rickover's personal decorations included the Submarine Warfare insignia, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal with Gold Award Star, the Legion of Merit with Gold Award Star, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal. His campaign and service medals included the World War I Victory Medal, China Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. In recognition of his wartime service, he was made Honorary Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Admiral Rickover was twice awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for exceptional public service; the first in 1958, and the second 25 years later in 1983. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter presented Admiral Rickover with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest non-military honor, for his contributions to world peace. He also received 61 civilian awards and 15 honorary degrees, including the prestigious Enrico Fermi Award "For engineering and demonstrative leadership in the development of safe and reliable nuclear power and its successful application to our national security and economic needs."

June 25, 2008 | Permalink

Ming Hsieh (China)

50961 Ming Hsieh (born 1955) is a billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist and the founder of AMAZ technology in 1987 and Cogent Systems in 1990. According to Forbes magazine, his estimated net worth exceeds $1.6 billion, ranking him the 198th richest person in America and 562nd among The World's Richest People In 2006.

Ming Hsieh's family originated in Guangzhou (Canton), he was raised in Shenyang, the capital city of Liaoning province in Northeast China. His family was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution as a part of China's upper middle class having ties with the old national government moved to Taiwan; as a result, his family was forced to move in 1966 to a small village near Panjing.

Hsieh learned the trade of electrical engineering from his formally trained father as they built a crude power system for the village. Hsieh's uncle had left China and earned a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Southern California in 1952 before working for TRW. Knowing of this, Hsieh decided to follow his uncle and, after two years at the South China Institute of Technology in Guangzhou and with an inheritance from his grandparents in Taiwan, he transferred to USC's engineering program.

Hsieh earned his Bachelor's of Science in Electrical Engineering from USC in 1983 and MSEE in 1984.

Hsieh began work as a circuit designer for International Rectifier. After two and a half years, he decided to start his own business. In 1987 he founded AMAX Information Technologies with former USC classmates and engineers from his uncle's work, TRW. Serving as its vice president, AMAX created servers, storage systems and related hardware, but Hsieh realized there was a need for software to go with his hardware. With another fellow USC classmate, he founded Cogent Systems Inc. which offered fully automated, high-speed biometric fingerprint system. The company began receiving numerous government contracts and now includes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Prisons, FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police amongst its customers.

In October 2006, Hsieh donated $35 million to USC's Viterbi School of Engineering's Department of Electrical Engineering, 100 years after the department and school's founding. In honor of his donation, the department was renamed the USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering.

A naturalized U.S. citizen, Hsieh is married with two children. He lives in Los Angeles.

Ming Hsieh was one one of the immigrant success-stories and charitable-givers profiled in a recent L.A. Times story.

June 26, 2008 | Permalink

Levi Strauss (Germany)

Levi_strauss Levi Strauss (1829-1902) founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans. He founded Levi Strauss & Company in 1853 in San Francisco.

Levi's name at birth was Loeb, but when he immigrated to the U.S., it was changed to Levi. He was born in Buttenheim in Bavaria, Germany. Young Levi sailed from Bremerhaven to New York where his two older brothers had already established a textile and tailoring business.

In 1853, Strauss became an American citizen and moved to San Francisco, California, where the California Gold Rush was still in high gear. Strauss opened a dry goods wholesale business called Levi Strauss & Co.

The story goes that miners, often complaining about the easily torn cotton "britches" and pockets that "split right out," gave Levi the idea to make a rugged overall trouser for the miners to wear.

On May 20, 1873, Strauss and Davis received United States patent #139121 for using copper rivets to strengthen the pockets of denim work pants. Levi Strauss & Co. began manufacturing the first of the famous Levi's brand of jeans in San Francisco.

Levi Strauss died on September 26, 1902 and was buried in Colma.

Levi Strauss & Co. continues to operate as a denim and clothing company.

June 27, 2008 | Permalink

These posts were orginally posted on the ImmigrationProf Blog here, here and here.

About The Author

Kevin R. Johnson is currently Dean, Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and the Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair holder at the University of California at Davis. He is also one of the editors of ImmigrationProf Blog .

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.