More than 50 years ago, Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. and Lê Công Cơ were on opposite sides of the Vietnam War. Hawkins fought as a US Marine. Le Cong Co fought as a member of the Viet Cong. Today, they lead Troy University and Duy Tan University, respectively, and are working together to ensure a brighter future for students in both the U.S. and Vietnam.
TROY’s formal partnership with Duy Tan began in 2017, based on a connection Dr. Hawkins and Lê forged years earlier. “More than six years ago we met for dinner and had our first dialogue. That was a fascinating conversation! That meeting led to the partnership with Duy Tan University. Now we are actively engaged in offering academic programs and working together to help build the future of Vietnam,” Dr. Hawkins said.
The partnership between TROY and Duy Tan — and the leaders who are using education to bring two worlds together — are the focus of a documentary currently under development. Representatives from Duy Tan, located in Danang, Vietnam, visited the Troy Campus this week to meet with Dr. Hawkins and other campus leaders about the documentary.
“What excites me about the documentary is it will show the transformation of the relationships between two countries that a half century ago were at war,” Dr. Hawkins said. “Today, not only do we recognize each other as countries, but we are working as partners. While we came from different backgrounds and certainly different sides of the war, our goal now is unity and a common focus on students. He is committed to building a great university and that is exactly what we are committed to doing at TROY.”
TROY officials first visited Vietnam in 2002, and began offering courses at partner institutions in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in 2004. The first students graduated in 2008, making TROY the first U.S. university to award the baccalaureate degree in Vietnam. Today, there are about 1,000 currently enrolled students and almost 1,500 TROY alumni in Vietnam.
Duy Tan students can complete bachelor’s programs in computer science and hospitality, sport and tourism management through TROY. Programs in business are expected to be added in the near future.
Bao Le, the son of Duy Tan University’s founder, said the institution was among the first private universities established in Vietnam and now ranks among the top five universities in the country.
“My father wanted to create a different platform so that our youth would have an opportunity to grow. It is important that we have a good education so that people can change their whole lives,” he said. “We cherished the opportunity to work with Troy University. We have students that study with TROY and when they graduate, they have better opportunities in the labor market because of the American degree. We hope that this relationship will continue for years to come.”
Dr. Hang Le, Vice Provost of Duy Tan and daughter of the University’s founder, said the idea for the documentary grew out of her admiration for Troy University and the relationship she saw between Dr. Hawkins and her father.
“As I learned more about the program, I really admired Dr. Hawkins. I think the ultimate purpose of education is to transform lives, and Dr. Hawkins has done that,” she said. “When I learned more about Dr. Hawkins’ life, I could relate that to my father’s life. I think this documentary is about two great men who are prominent educational leaders in Vietnam and America. It is inspiring to me so I wanted the younger generations in Vietnam to learn about these great men because they stand for and provide examples of strong discipline, great ethics and perseverance.”
Dr. Le said the documentary is expected to be completed over the next few months and then will be aired on national television and at film festivals in Vietnam. Troy University also plans to screen the film.