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$25 million gift endows overseas program, renamed in honor of Bings

Longtime Stanford supporters Peter, '55, and Helen Bing have made a gift to endow the university's Overseas Studies Program. With matching funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the gift totals $25 million.

The program has been renamed the Bing Overseas Studies Program, and the gift will provide core operating funds to ensure that the overseas studies experience is offered to Stanford students in perpetuity.

"Helen and Peter Bing have been good friends of Stanford for many years and have shaped the university in countless ways," President John Hennessy said. "The Bing Overseas Studies Program will make a profound difference in the lives of our students and offer them opportunities to gain greater appreciation of the world's diverse peoples."

The Bings are among five couples who co-chair Stanford's Campaign for Undergraduate Education. In addition, Helen Bing has served on the Overseas Studies Council since 2001, and Peter Bing has served on the Board of Trustees almost continuously since 1970.

Norman Naimark, the Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of Eastern European Studies and the Burke Family Director of the Bing Overseas Studies Program, said the $25 million gift will help the university reach a new stage of internationalization. "Innovative, flexible programming can be joined with Stanford's traditional strengths in establishing campuses abroad to create an environment where all Stanford students can function as knowledgeable citizens of the world," he said.

Stanford has provided undergraduates with the opportunity to study abroad since 1958. The university operates centers in Australia, Beijing, Berlin, Florence, Kyoto, Moscow, Oxford, Paris and Santiago. This fall, intensive three-week-long seminars were held in places as diverse as Bhutan, Morocco, South Africa and Belgium.

About 40 percent of undergraduates study abroad through overseas studies, an experience that students consistently rank as one of their most rewarding at Stanford. Tenured professors from campus and visiting scholars from host countries teach courses according to Stanford's strict academic standards. The program also serves as an extension of the university's undergraduate research effort through which students pursue fieldwork and independent scholarship, often as part of an honors thesis. While in the program, students have benefited from cultural events, among other activities, funded by previous gifts from the Bings.

"Over the years, no one has provided more support to the program than Helen and Peter Bing. It's highly appropriate that the program would bear their name," says Bob Burke, '64, JD '67, chair of the Overseas Studies Council. "This gift is just the latest example of their generosity, which includes a previous gift to endow cultural events that have benefited generations of students. Through her service on the Overseas Council and her personal interaction with students at overseas campuses, Helen Bing has shown a deep, personal commitment to this program and to ensuring that students get the most they can from their overseas experience."

The $25 million in new endowment has added significance beyond its primary benefit to students and the program's future, said John Ford, senior vice president for university resources. In 2000, the Campaign for Undergraduate Education (CUE) was launched with a $1 billion goal. The gift from the Bings, coupled with the Hewlett Foundation match, means that Stanford has reached its $50 million campaign goal for overseas studies.

"We are thrilled to reach and, in fact, surpass our goal for the Overseas Studies Program in CUE thanks to our dear friends Helen and Peter Bing and thanks to a strong foundation of earlier gifts of endowment to the program, including many gifts from members of the OSP Council," Ford said. "That said, we can't lose sight of the fact that we haven't fully funded the program."

According to Ford, areas still in need of support include endowing the Beijing, Paris and Santiago centers; endowing directorships in Beijing, Berlin, Oxford, Paris and Santiago; and endowing professorships in Beijing, Berlin, Florence, Oxford, Paris and Santiago.