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“I always wanted the Royal Canadian Mint and Canada to be first in the world. As an immigrant of Vietnamese origin, I had set my goal to do the best for Canada. This was my way of thanking Canada for opening its doors to accept Vietnamese people. As a Vietnamese Canadian, I am proud to have served the Royal Canadian Mint well and to make Canada the leader in the global minting industry.” – Dr. Hieu C. Truong

The Order of Canada, established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, is the cornerstone of the Canadian Honours System, recognizing people across all sectors of Canadian society for their “outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation”, as quoted from the Governor General of Canada website.

This year marks the Order of Canada’s 50th year. On June 23rd, 99 appointees were added to the list of more than 6,000 names. Retired engineer Hieu Cong Truong was one of them.

Hieu Cong Truong was born on September 23, 1941 in Saigon and attended the city’s Lycée Jean-Jacques Rousseau high school (today it is called the Lê Quý Đôn Education Centre).  In 1959, he graduated in the top one per cent of his class nationwide. He then went to the United States and was at the top of his graduating class in chemical engineering at New York University in 1963. He earned his master’s degree in Chemical Engineering in 1964. When he returned to Vietnam, he started his career as an engineering lecturer at Phu Tho National Technical Center, where he became director of the institute’s chemical engineering school. Returning to New York University, he completed his Ph.D in Engineering in 1971.

Dr. Truong immigrated to Canada from the U.S. in 1971, working for a number of corporations before joining the Royal Canadian Mint in 1978. He stayed with the mint until his retirement in 2014.

When Dr. Truong began his career at the mint, he was the superintendent of technical services, responsible for machine repairs, and die and tooling production. He became director of engineering, overseeing the plants in Ottawa and Winnipeg, then director of corporate engineering, focusing on long term technical and engineering development strategy. In 2001 as executive director, advanced engineering in research and development, he was responsible for new products and innovations. As a result, Canada introduced many “firsts” to the global minting industry. His contributions helped Canada to become a recognized leader in minting, transforming the technology by which coins are produced.

Dr. Truong invented the multi-ply plating, the technology where expensive base metals such as copper, nickel and aluminum are switched out for nickel plated steel. Because of this technology, low cost, high quality coins that are secure, safe to handle, and durable can now be minted around the world.

He developed and patented the first coloured circulation coin. Collectable numismatic coins have always been available in colourful prints, but numismatic coins are rarely touched since handling damages the coin. Because circulation coins are frequently touched, they couldn’t be printed with colour. Dr. Truong was able to invent a unique technology that prints colour on coins and resists abrasive wear. To this day, the Royal Canadian Mint remains the only mint in the world that is able to successfully produce circulation coins with colour print enhancements.  You may have come across the red poppy coin commemorating Remembrance Day, the pink ribbon coin representing the hope to beat breast cancer, or the Canadian Maple Leaf flag coin. These are all products of Dr. Truong’s work.

The world’s first DNA (Digital Non-Destructive Activation) authentication technology that quickly and non-destructively authenticates gold coins via smartphone came from Dr. Truong. By generating a random pattern that cannot be duplicated onto the coin surface, the laser design is digitally encoded and encrypted as a signature or digital fingerprint recorded in a data base at the mint.  At any moment anywhere in the world, a picture of the laser design can be taken with a smartphone and sent to the Royal Canadian Mint website and analyzed by computers for the matching signature in the database.

Other minting technologies Dr. Truong is credited with include the physical vapour deposition (PVD) coating to harden die surfaces for preserved life, direct reduction digital engraving, bimetallic joining mechanism for bi-colour, bi-metallic coins (as seen in the toonie), five nines gold refining, bronze plating without using cyanide and holographic imaging technology in minting.

At the end of his career with the mint, Dr. Truong had amassed more than a dozen patents in coining within Canada, United States, Europe, China, Singapore and Australia and left a legacy for Canada with more than 40 countries now utilizing his many inventions.

In June 2013, the Royal Canadian Mint erected the Dr. Hieu C. Truong Centre of Excellence for Research and Development to celebrate his lifelong work and innovation in minting technology. The Royal Canadian Mint struck a medallion in his honor to mark the opening of the Centre.

In June of this year, Dr. Truong was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada by his Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada for “his innovative contributions as an engineer and a leader who has helped propel Canada to the forefront of the Minting industry.”