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By George Lewis

Honorary doctorate recipient Fujio Cho, second from left, is flanked by former Gov. Martha Layne Collins, left, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. and Georgetown College President William Crouch.

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"It was a remarkable engineering feat. He created a new corporate culture that went beyond management into that elusive zone called 'leadership.'"

--Lee T. Todd Jr.,
University of Kentucky,
on Fujio Cho's work opening Toyota's plant in Georgetown, Ky.

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Jan. 29, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- Amid academic pageantry, Fujio Cho, president of Toyota Motor Corp., received an honorary doctor of engineering degree today from University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. Regarded as the founding father of Toyota in Kentucky, Cho now heads Toyota's entire scope of operations from its world headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

In addition to receiving the honorary degree, Cho is visiting North America for his induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame and to participate in the annual North American Business Results meeting at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in Georgetown.

Although he is not an engineer by profession, Cho deserved the honorary engineering degree because of his success in getting the Toyota plant in Kentucky operational in 1988 as the company's first independent manufacturing venture in America.

"It was a remarkable engineering feat," said Todd, himself an engineer with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "He created a new corporate culture that went beyond management into that elusive zone called 'leadership.'"

The UK president lauded Cho's community involvement. "Mr. Cho was a quick study," Todd said. "He almost instantly became involved in the community. He adapted Toyota to the prevailing culture."

As a result, according to the citation read at the ceremony, "Toyota has become a model corporate citizen. The company has contributed substantial financial resources to Georgetown, Scott County and the University of Kentucky and has enriched these institutions in ways that benefit the common citizen, even though this philanthropy did not always directly benefit Toyota."

The ceremony took place in UK's William T. Young Library, to which Toyota has contributed $3 million. The library is considered one of the nation's preeminent academic research libraries and information centers.

Cho acknowledged the academic honor with characteristic modesty: "This honor is not for me, but for Toyota, in recognition of the highly productive association between Toyota and the University of Kentucky."

Over the years, Toyota and UK have forged a symbiotic relationship. When Toyota came to Kentucky, it helped to establish an advanced manufacturing center, not necessarily to provide services to Toyota or its suppliers; rather, Cho envisioned the creation of a center at UK that would provide support to a broad range of small- to medium-sized Kentucky companies.

Subsequently, Cho agreed to support the creation of a lean manufacturing program in the UK Center for Robotics and Manufacturing Systems. Lean manufacturing is a cost-effective method for maximizing efficiency, performance and profitability.

A host of dignitaries participated in the academic pageantry: Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton; former Kentucky Gov. Martha Layne Collins, who lists among her major accomplishments helping Toyota establish its Georgetown plant; Georgetown College President William H. Crouch Jr.; and several Toyota executives from the company's plant in Georgetown and Toyota corporate headquarters in Erlanger, Ky., and New York City.

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