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VOL. 23, NO. 5OCTOBER 3, 1997

Fu Foundation Gives the Engineering School $26M and a New Name

Zvi Galil

President George Rupp announced last week that in recognition of a landmark $26 million gift from The Fu Foundation, Columbia will name its renowned School of Engineering and Applied Science The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

  This new gift, which will be received in full this academic year, will be used to recruit and retain clusters of world-class faculty and the most promising students in four preeminent fields of engineering: computer science, biomedical engineering, applied mathematics and electrical engineering.

  "This is a transforming gift," said Rupp, "that will focus support on Columbia's greatest asset—our outstanding faculty and the students who will succeed them as international leaders in the most dynamic fields of engineering and applied science. These resources will enable talented engineers and scientists to produce great discoveries and inventions that will improve human welfare even as they expand our intellectual world and stimulate global economic growth.

  "We are sincerely grateful to Mr. Fu for his uncommon vision and for his recognition that in supporting the best people, he will help create more opportunity for truly enlightened and world changing discoveries. With this gift Mr. Fu has helped to ensure that Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Science will play a leading role in the 21st century," he said.

  Describing his reasons for making the gift, Z.Y. Fu said, "I am a regular visitor to New York, where Columbia is the most prestigious institution of higher learning. In addition to its long history of association with Chinese professors and scholars, the university has educated numerous Chinese students and successfully hosts the Fu Foundation Scholars program. Through this new gift, I wish to honor that association and to ensure that, in the years to come, Columbia will continue to grow in strength as an international leader in science and technology. This will serve as a model for education in China."

  The Fu Foundation Endowment will be used to support interdisciplinary clusters of faculty and students working in areas of greatest promise and strength. The initial areas targeted for support are:

  • Computer science, one of the most highly-regarded of all Columbia's programs of pathbreaking teaching and research, where current research focuses on such areas as automated vision environments, parallel computing, digital libraries, robotics, natural language processing and more.

  • Biomedical engineering, an evolving discipline that draws on collaboration among engineers, physicians, and scientists to provide insights into a range of medical conditions and concerns, from orthopedic and musculoskeletal biomechanics to the development of artificial organs and cardiovascular prostheses.

  • Applied mathematics, which supports research in such fields as the theory and application of dynamic systems and in large-scale computation, including collaborative research on global climate modeling.

  • Electrical engineering, an area of particular strength at Columbia for more than a century, in which researchers are helping to meet the challenge of providing faster and more sophisticated methods of handling information.

  "Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Mr. Fu's gift," said Provost Jonathan R. Cole, "is that it recognizes that contemporary science and engineering, with their exponential rates of growth, are created through organized clusters of very talented individuals. At the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science these clusters will consist of senior and junior scientists working with advanced students.

The Gateway Laboratory in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science enables undergraduate students to create three-dimensional virtual reality simulations of their engineering designs using Silicon Graphics Indy workstations.

  "This gift will also very much help shape the future of the School, coming as it does at a moment when the traditional boundaries among science and engineering disciplines are fast disappearing. This gift, in fields that are taking on an increasingly interdisciplinary cast, will enable the clusters of faculty in engineering to connect with the departments of physics, chemistry, earth sciences, and mathematics, among others. The clusters of excellence in engineering, linked to other centers of distinction at Columbia, will create the kinds of dynamic networks needed to produce innovations in science and engineering in the modern world."

  Zvi Galil, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, said: "As a result of the extraordinary generosity of Mr. Fu and the Foundation, Columbia engineering will become a training ground for leaders in engineering and applied science. It will become a place where faculty will make discoveries to help meet our most critical economic and social challenges. It will become a place where young industry leaders will be shaped and products developed that should help lift our nation and all nations to new and greater economic advancements."

  Pioneering programs in engineering and applied science have occupied a key place in the life of Columbia ever since its founding as Kings College in 1754. Its faculty and alumni are responsible for some of the world's foremost technological achievements, including the FM radio, the maser and the first X-ray photograph to be taken in America, and have contributed to MPEG-2, the video compression standard driving high-definition television and direct-from-satellite broadcasting. A total of 44 faculty, former faculty and graduates of the University have been awarded the Nobel Prize for their achievements in the sciences, including physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine.

  The School of Engineering and the Applied Sciences provides undergraduate and graduate students with both the technical skills and the intellectual discipline to become leaders in industry, government and education. Students at all levels are encouraged to conduct field work and undertake research that will develop their innovation and resourcefulness. In addition to traditional engineering disciplines, programs are offered in such diverse fields as biomedical engineering, computer science, plasma physics and materials science. Over the centuries, the school has trained many outstanding engineers, including John Stevens (one of the inventors of the steam boat), Michael I. Pupin (inventor of the transmission equipment that made long-distance telephoning possible) and Joseph Engelberger (the father of modern robotics).

  Z.Y. Fu is an international businessman active in import-export, investments, and securities trading. Born in Shanghai to a family of 13 children, he was educated in China and then Japan, where in 1951 he founded the Tokyo-based Sansiao Trading Corp. Sansiao now operates branches in Kobe and New York in addition to its Hong Kong subsidiary, San Tsin Trading Corporation. Fu divides his time among homes in Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York.

  The gift to name the Fu Foundation School is only the latest in a series of contributions to Columbia, beginning with the endowment of the Fu Foundation Professorship in Applied Mathematics in celebration of Fu's 70th birthday in 1990. Since 1993, funds have also been provided for the Fu Foundation Scholars program, which each year supports a total of 24 students of Chinese descent, with the awards being divided between Columbia College and the Engineering School. This year's Fu Foundation Scholars include students from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.