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Great Immigrants

Peggy Cherng
Cofounder, Cochair, and Co-CEO, Panda Restaurant Group, Inc.
Born in:
Myanmar

Born Peggy Tsiang in Myanmar (then Burma), Peggy Cherng grew up in Hong Kong and came to the United States to study at Baker University in Kansas in the 1960s. As a freshman, she met her future husband, Andrew, another international student. She transferred to Oregon State University, earning an undergraduate degree in mathematics. She later completed a PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Missouri, specializing in computer simulation. After graduate school, Cherng joined McDonnell Douglas, a major aerospace manufacturer and U.S. defense contractor, where she helped code battlefield simulators for the U.S. Air Force. A new chapter of Cherng’s career began in 1983 when she joined her husband in launching the first Panda Express restaurant in the food court of the Glendale Galleria mall in California. Since then, the fast-casual Panda Express has brought Chinese-American food to more than 2,200 locations in the United States and around the world, employing nearly 40,000 people. Cherng is responsible for devising the technological solutions to track orders, customer preferences, and inventory, a critical component of the company’s successful expansion. She is the cochair and co-CEO of the Panda Restaurant Group, which also owns and invests in other brands. With an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion, Cherng is ranked #12 on Forbes’ list of America’s richest self-made women for 2019. The Cherngs run several philanthropic ventures and have made significant donations to education. In 2017 the couple gave $30 million to endow the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering at Caltech. As Peggy Cherng told the New York Times, “We are first-generation immigrants here, and we were educated in the United States. The giving back and paying forward is very important to us.”