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Our founder

Dr. Nirund Jivasantikarn was born in the province of Lampang, in Northern Thailand.  With the guidance of an American Peace Corps Volunteer, he left Thailand in 1966 to pursue higher education in the United States where he earned a B.S. in Biology from Baylor University in 1970 and M.S. Wildlife Science from Texas A & M University in 1971.  After returning to Thailand in 1971, Dr. Nirund volunteered with the esteemed conservationist Dr. Boonsong Lekhakul, and later served for seven years as director of a community college in Lampang.  During that time, Dr. Nirund also assumed leadership roles in local government, business, and civic organizations, following the family tradition of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.

Dr. Nirund returned to the United States in 1978 to pursue further education—he earned his Doctorate in Education Administration from Baylor University in 1981.  With friends and supporters in the US, Dr. Nirund incorporated the American-Thai Foundation and upon returning home incorporated Yonok Foundation in Thailand. The two foundations would collaborate in many education and social-impact initiatives in Thailand. In 1988, Dr. Nirund raised US$7 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), friends, and supporters to establish Yonok University in Lampang and served as president until 2006.  The project was one of the largest investments in Lampang history. Throughout this period, Dr. Nirund established strong academic, business, and professional partnerships in the U.S. and also engaged business and civic leaders and government agencies in Thailand for his causes in education.  

Dr. Nirund is regarded as one of the leading visionaries and social entrepreneurs in Thailand. He founded and led various organizations in the United States and Thailand to help address the growing needs of the local community and the development of Northern Thailand and initiated several study and cultural exchange programs with schools and universities in the US.  In 2005, Dr. Nirund was conferred an Honorary Doctorate by Texas Wesleyan University.  He earned a diploma from the National Defense College of Thailand in 1996; a certificate in higher education from Harvard University in 2000; and a certificate in entrepreneurship education from Babson College in 2001.  In 2011, Dr. Nirund was Visiting Scholar at Stanford University where he worked with the School of Education and established productive partnerships with numerous schools, departments, and centers. He is a member of Parents’ Club of Stanford and Stanford Benefactors. Since April 2000 he has served as Honorary Consul of Belgium in Lampang, representing Belgium Embassy affairs and needs in Northern Thailand. In 2015, on proposal of Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Didier Reynders, H.M. the King of the Belgians, King Philippe, bestowed upon Dr. Nirund the high distinction of Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Couronne (Knight in the Order of the Crown).