A special group of alumni and friends have strengthened Caltech’s ability to provide such an environment by establishing endowed leadership chairs. Confident that the institution’s scholars have the knowledge, passion, and drive to push forward promising ideas and address some of the biggest problems facing society, they have made gifts that provide unconditional support.
Since 2012, leadership chairs—endowed commitments that provide Institute leaders with discretionary funds—have been created for the president, provost, and leaders in all six academic divisions at Caltech: Biology and Biological Engineering (BBE), Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (CCE), Engineering and Applied Science (EAS), Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS), the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), and Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy (PMA).
Beneficiaries include faculty who have purchased next-generation instrumentation, graduate students who have received fellowship support, and undergraduates who have studied evolution firsthand in the Galápagos Islands.
When the Institute announced the generosity of its friends, Caltech’s benefactors used the occasion to offer their earnest votes of confidence.
Trustee Bill Davidow (MS ’59) and his wife, Sonja, established their leadership chair for current and future Caltech presidents including Thomas F. Rosenbaum. “The few great ideas that change the world flow from pinnacles of excellence, and Caltech is one of those pinnacles,” Bill Davidow said.
Carl (BS ’52) and Shirley Larson’s gift enables current and future provosts including Edward M. Stolper, who is also Caltech’s William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology, to nimbly respond to opportunities as they arise. “Knowing Ed Stolper, knowing the people at Caltech, we have complete trust. Our goal with this gift is to give them the freedom to be effective,” Carl Larson said.
The Otis Booth Foundation, overseen by Caltech trustee Lynn Booth, named the leadership chair in EAS. The gift honors Booth’s late husband, Franklin Otis Booth Jr. “My husband held Caltech in high regard,” Booth said. “I am thrilled that this gift in his honor will connect his name with the pioneering work in EAS forever and give Caltech greater financial flexibility to respond to special opportunities and unforeseen challenges.”
In supporting BBE through his private foundation, Bill Bowes said: “I have known firsthand for years that Caltech faculty have the unique intellectual skills, imagination, and track record to propel promising entrepreneurial ventures.”
To honor esteemed Caltech chemist Norman Davidson, anonymous supporters established the leadership chair in CCE. “Given our father’s deep love for Caltech, his colleagues, and students, we know he would be thrilled by this very generous gift,” said Davidson’s son, Brian.
Trustee Ted Jenkins (BS ’65, MS ’66) and his wife, Ginger, hope the agility conferred by their GPS leadership chair will spur breakthroughs. “By applying extra resources to things that look exciting but uncertain, Caltech has come up with more than its fair share of interesting discoveries,” said Ted Jenkins.
Trustee Kent Kresa and his late wife, Joyce, decided to bolster the people and science in PMA. Kent Kresa explained: “Caltech is a nurturer of good ideas and new things. Of anywhere in the world, the ideas per student and ideas per faculty member are probably the highest at Caltech.”
Trustee Ronald Linde (MS ’62, PhD ’64) and his wife, Maxine, directed funds that HSS chairs can use to back promising, original ideas as part of one of the largest single gifts ever pledged to Caltech. “Caltech’s long track record speaks for itself,” said Ron Linde. “A dollar invested in Caltech can provide unparalleled returns.”
Looking forward, Caltech intends to create leadership chairs for the directors of centers and institutes in key areas where similar freedom and flexibility would spur pathbreaking science and technology.