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Taiwan contributes $1 million to endowment fund
STANFORD -- The Ministry of Education of the Republic of China on Taiwan has pledged $1 million in support of the Kwoh- Ting Li Professorships, a unique program of four endowed chairs in diverse fields at Stanford University.
Li is generally regarded as the prime architect of the successful economic transformation of the Republic of China on Taiwan. The idea of honoring Li at Stanford first was raised in 1990 during discussions between university representatives and prominent alumni from Taiwan.
"Stanford has quite a few alumni from Taiwan who have been very successful in fields including engineering and high technology," said David Gordon, who has worked on the project for the Office of Development since its inception. "They recognized that Dr. Li was a key figure in creating the environment that fostered much of their success, and wanted to honor him for his contributions to Taiwan's development."
In early 1991, Li was a guest of honor at the university, met with top academic and administrative officials and gave a talk on "The Quest for Modernization: The Republic of China Experience on Taiwan." Since that time, numerous deans and other top administrators have paid reciprocal visits to Taiwan and have met with Li there.
Li, 85, was trained as a physicist at Cambridge University under Lord Ernest Rutherford. After a number of leadership positions in industry, he entered public service in Taiwan in 1953 and went on to hold three successive cabinet posts - minister of economic affairs, minister of finance, and minister of state without portfolio.
He currently is a senior adviser to the president of the Republic of China, and is chairman of the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange.
"I am grateful for this significant commitment from the Ministry of Education that both honors Dr. Kwoh-Ting Li and goes directly to support the heart of the university," Stanford President Gerhard Casper said in accepting the pledge Friday, Jan. 27.
"Stanford and the Republic of China on Taiwan enjoy many strong ties through our faculty, our students and our alumni," Casper said. "We value that relationship, and I know that it will continue to flourish."
The early discussions with alumni ultimately led to a commitment to establish four chairs in Li's name. The fields of economic development, engineering, medicine (biotechnology or public health) and Chinese culture were selected, because Li has made significant contributions to the Republic of China in each of those areas.
Stanford committed $1.2 million toward the total cost of endowing the Li Professorships. Donors, many of them prominent alumni from Taiwan, previously contributed a total of $4.2 million.
Currently, economist Lawrence Lau is the Li Professor of Economic Development; electrical engineering Professor Thomas Cover holds the chair in engineering; and geneticist Stanley Cohen occupies the chair in medicine. The professorship in Chinese culture has not been filled.
Jyh-Yuan Lo, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, explained why his country decided to make the contribution, which completes funding of the total $6.4 million cost of the four professorships.
"Many of our best students [from Taiwan] come to study at Stanford," Lo said. "We appreciate the outstanding education and financial support they receive from the university, and we invite and encourage the future K.T. Li chairholders to visit Taiwan and help promote future academic and cultural collaboration between Stanford and the Republic of China."
There are currently 226 students from Taiwan registered at Stanford.
Gordon said the Li Professorships were unusual, if not unique, in several regards.
"It's rare for an endowed chair to be funded from multiple sources," Gordon said. "And it's almost unheard of for many individuals and organizations to join together to fund four chairs at one time. This is a notable tribute to Dr. Li, and it has been something very special to have been associated with over the years."
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