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  • John Gokongwei Jr., Who Donated Half Of His Personal Holdings For Education, Dies At 93

    Family always came first in the many principles and beliefs of John Gokongwei Jr.
    by Esquire Philippines .
John Gokongwei Jr., Who Donated Half Of His Personal Holdings For Education, Dies At 93
PHOTO BY JGSummit.com.ph
  • John L. Gokongwei Jr, one of the most influential businessmen in the country, has passed away. The entrepreneur, industrialist, and philanthropist was 93 years old.

    In a text message sent to SmartParenting.com.ph, his son, Lance Gokongwei, said, “Our beloved husband, father, and grandfather John Gokongwei, Jr. passed away peacefully 11:41 pm, November 9th, at the Manila Doctor’s Hospital surrounded by his loved ones. Please pray for the repose of his soul. Details of his wake to follow. Rest In Peace, Mr. John.”

    Gokongwei Jr.'s life has been hailed as one of the most iconic stories of business successes and has served as a role model for the many aspiring entrepreneurs in the country.

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    At the age of 13, Gokongwei Jr. started selling garlic-cooked peanuts to his schoolmates. The self-made industrialist went on to build a diversified, multi-billion-peso business empire consisting of companies that are major players in their respective industries.


    Mr. John, as he was fondly called, built JG Summit and Robinsons Retail Holdings, currently among the Philippines’ largest family-run conglomerates from a modest trading business into one of the biggest companies with interests in air transportation, telecommunications, banking, food, power, property and hospitality, retail, media, and petrochemicals.

    Employing close to some 75,000 people around the world made the Gokongwei Group one of the biggest employers in the Philippines today.

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    On his 80th birthday, Gokongwei Jr. blazed a trail in local philanthropy when he announced the donation of half of all his personal holdings to establish the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF), which is focused on providing STEM education and scholarships for the underprivileged.

    Gokongwei Jr. considered education investment in the future and put a premium on it. Even though he had to work at an early age to support his family, the school was still a big thing for the former elementary and high school valedictorian of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.


    In one of his commencement speeches, Gokongwei Jr. was quoted as saying: “It is my belief that education is the only way to save this country. We need quality education to compete in this world.”

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    In the book, Lessons from Dad, John Gokongwei, Jr., Lance wrote, “I think the chip on Dad’s shoulder for many years was not having a college degree. So later on, when he already had six children, he went back to school to take his master’s degree in Business Administration at De La Salle University.”

    Today, GBF supports over 500 scholars a year, most notably in the technical-vocational field. The foundation was among the first to establish large-scale education philanthropy in the Philippines through and among others, Ateneo’s John Gokongwei School of Management and De La Salle’s John Gokongwei School of Engineering and the John Gokongwei Innovation Center. He also donated the Xavier School Gokongwei Junior High School Building, and the Immaculate Conception Academy Juanita ML Gokongwei Building, named after his mother who passed away in 1991.


    Family always came first in the many principles and beliefs of Gokongwei Jr. After his father died, the 13-year-old Gokongwei Jr. was forced to send his siblings to live with relatives in China. His decision to work early was motivated by his dream of saving enough money to bring them home.   

    “Dad’s enduring bond with his siblings has been passed on to the next generation. My sisters and I are very close to one another…[and] work together in our family business…We all work hard which is one of the biggest open secrets of our family business’ success,” wrote Lance.  

    Of all the roles Gokongwei Jr. played in his life, the ones his family knew of him mattered the most — son, husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin and grandfather. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Elizabeth Yu, and his children Robina, Lance, Lisa, Faith and Hope, and Marcia, his in-laws and grandchildren, brothers Eddie and James, the current chairman of the company, his sister Lily, and his nieces and nephews.


    This story originally appeared in Esquire Philippines.

    Edits have been made by the SmartParenting.com.ph editors.

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