Dr. Min Hwan Kao earned the BS in electrical engineering from the National University of Taiwan in 1971 and the MS and PhD in electrical engineering at UT in 1975 and 1977, respectively. He joined Teledyne, where he was involved with the development of various navigation systems, and then went to Magnavox, where he designed military navigation systems using the then-new system of satellites known as the NavStar Global Positioning System.
Kao joined the engineering team at King Radio in 1983. King Radio was bought by Allied Signal and eventually became Honeywell. At King Radio, Kao had developed the first GPS receiver certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, and he believed that GPS receivers had tremendous potential. In 1989 he and Gary Burrell, a colleague from Allied Signal, founded ProNav, later changed to Garmin (a compressed version of the first names of its founders) International. This vertically integrated manufacturing company became the world leader in GPS receivers and technology. Kao stepped down as CEO of Garmin at the end of 2012, becoming executive chairman of the company.
In August 2004 Kao, chairman and CEO of Garmin, donated $12.5 million for the new Min Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building. He also pledged $5 million to match other private donations up to the same amount with the goal of generating a $10 million endowment for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, which would be named for him once the matching funds were raised. His gift came about through an unsolicited contact he made with his former faculty advisor, Dr. James Hung, about making a gift to UT. Hung suggested a new building. Kao’s gift was matched by the State with $25 million to build the 150,000-square-foot building, UT’s first new engineering building since 1962.