In 1990, Texas A&M University Senior Distinguished Professor of Biology Timothy C. Hall took a chance on a prospective graduate student, responding to a plaintive request for help with an open invitation to join his laboratory within the Texas A&M Institute of Developmental and Molecular Biology.
Twenty-five years later, Eric Yong Xu ’93 is returning the favor by investing in Texas A&M and simultaneously honoring Hall, a pioneer of plant molecular biology, plant transformation and related biotechnology who mentored him to his Ph.D. in biology and a bright future as one of China’s most influential entrepreneurs and investors.
In tribute to Hall and his influential role in Xu’s multifaceted success, Xu recently helped establish the Timothy C. Hall-Heep Foundation Distinguished Faculty Chair in Biology through the Texas A&M Foundation. His $1 million gift will be matched with Herman F. and Minnie Bell Heep Foundation funds to create a $2 million chair to bring distinguished faculty members to campus through the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS).
“I am obviously very happy and pleased,” Hall said. “I greatly appreciate Dr. Xu’s action, which shows that faculty at Texas A&M work with their students in such a way that creates a lasting impression and impact. When those students are in a position to pay something back, it’s especially enjoyable.”
The chair, only the second created in the Department of Biology, will be used to defray costs associated with recruiting TIAS Faculty Fellows in biology, particularly those focused on plant science, and to support a related ongoing visiting faculty lecture series in biology.
“The combination of Eric’s gift and Heep Foundation funding results in opportunities greater than the College of Science or TIAS could provide individually,” said H. Joseph Newton, dean of the College of Science.
Xu is co-founder of Baidu, the world’s largest Chinese search engine, as well as founder and chairman of YIFANG Ventures, an asset management and venture capital company based in both Beijing and Singapore. A Rockefeller Foundation fellow (1990-1993) while at Texas A&M, Xu was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley (1994-1996) prior to moving into biotechnology start-ups in the Silicon Valley and eventually into similar ventures in China.
For additional information about endowed chairs and professorships or other giving opportunities in the College of Science, go to https://science.tamu.edu/giving/ or directly to the Texas A&M Foundation.
Learn more about the Texas A&M Institute of Developmental and Molecular Biology.
# # # # # # # # # #
About the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study: TIAS provides a catalyst to enrich the intellectual climate and educational experiences at Texas A&M. The Institute was established in December 2010 by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents to build on the growing academic reputation of Texas A&M and to provide a framework to attract top scholars from throughout the nation and abroad for appointments of up to a year. To learn more, visit tias.tamu.edu.