Xiangming “Jack” Cheng, Ph.D. in MSE, 2000
Inducted in 2023
Xiangming “Jack” Cheng began his career as a researcher but quickly transitioned to an entrepreneur and visionary leader who empowers his employees to push the status quo and drives his company to become a global leader in metal manufacturing and distribution. A first-generation Chinese immigrant who has never forgotten his roots, Cheng is committed to giving back to his community and inspiring the next generation of leaders and achievers.
Having earned a bachelor’s degree in metallurgy, a master’s degree in steelmaking and a doctoral degree in metallurgical physical chemistry—all in China—Cheng came to the United States with big dreams. After earning a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of Kentucky in 2000, Cheng took a position as senior research associate at UK’s Center for Aluminum Technology while he worked toward an MBA.
In 2003, Cheng launched AA Metals from his home office in Lexington, Kentucky, with just $600 in savings in the bank. Thanks to his vision and leadership, Cheng has grown AA Metals into a global aluminum manufacturing and distribution leader with over 500 employees and $1.2 billion in revenue. AA Metals serves over 500 customers around the world, providing 500 million pounds of aluminum and steel per year, with a global supply network in Asia, South America, Europe and the Middle East. Additionally, Cheng has acquired multiple aluminum manufacturing and processing facilities in the United States, Turkey and Colombia, as well as operation centers in China and Germany.
In 2019, Cheng received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Florida and became a National Finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the United States. He was featured in “The American Dream,” an Emmy Award-winning show by Bloomberg TV. Cheng was also named the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2022.
Cheng has served on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the UK College of Engineering since 2022. On UK’s “One Day for UK” giving day, Cheng made a $1 million gift for research and teaching spaces within the College of Engineering. His gift was presented as a matching gift, which inspired not only gifts from the UK community but also team members at AA Metals in Florida, Pennsylvania, Turkey, Colombia and China.
In addition to his volunteer work at UK, Cheng has been an activist and supporter of the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign since 2017. Cheng is a dedicated supporter of the Chinese American communities in Orlando, generously sponsoring numerous initiatives in partnership with the Greater Orlando Chinese Professionals Association (OCPA). As a testament to his commitment, he currently serves as OCPA’s Honorary President.
Cheng lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife, Angela, and four sons.