Jack Cheng’s $1 Million Gift Will Lift Up Future Generations

Nestor RentasGeneral

Materials science alum Jack Cheng has given $1,000,000 to the UK College of Engineering to support state-of-the-art teaching and research spaces. Cheng is the founder, president and CEO of AA Metals, Inc.

Cheng’s gift, which was made on One Day for UK, the University of Kentucky’s annual day of giving inspired the engineering community than ever before to participate.

“With his gift, Jack Cheng brought our engineering community together for our students,” said Dean Rudy Buchheit. “I am thankful for his generosity and his inspiring spirit, especially in a year that has presented challenges to all of us.”

Cheng’s gift will support the renovation of the Funkhouser Building. Due to projected enrollment growth, an increase in faculty members and research expansion, the College of Engineering plans to renovate and expand the Funkhouser Building in 2026. The proposed expansion will add 100,000 square feet of state-of-the-art teaching and research spaces to the UK College of Engineering campus.

After receiving his first Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in Metallurgy from the China Central Iron and Steel Research Institute, Jack came to the U.S. to further his study and research.

“I remember when I came to the United States from China in 1997. I only had $50 in my pocket,” Cheng said. “There was no way I could pursue graduate studies in the United States on my own. I couldn’t support myself.”

The UK College of Engineering offered him a full scholarship to join their materials science graduate program with a research assistantship to cover his costs of living. Cheng graduated with his Ph.D. in Material Science and Engineering in 2000. He then earned his MBA from the UK Gatton College of Business and Economics in 2003. After graduating, Cheng started AA Metals, which is now one of the fastest growing companies in the United States and one of the largest North American distributors of aluminum and steel.

“The University of Kentucky gave me that research assistantship and it changed my life. Without UK’s financial support, I would not have a graduate degree or the company that I have today,” Cheng said. “I give back to the UK College of Engineering because so many alumni gave in ways that benefited me when I was an engineering student. I’m proud to be part of the UK College of Engineering’s legacy of lifting up future generations.”