Hewlett Grant Aimed at Keeping UCB Faculty

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday September 11, 2007

One of America’s richest foundations has promised $113 million to UC Berkeley to endow faculty chairs and recruit top graduate students. 

But there’s a catch: The grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation requires $110 million in matching funds from other donors over the next seven years. 

The additional $3 million is to pay for the costs of endowing funds at the university, according to an announcement from the foundation. 

The goal of the grant, announced Monday morning at a press conference, is the creation of 100 endowed chairs to keep the school’s best faculty from migrating to other jobs. 

“This gift is an extraordinary vote of confidence in the contribution that UC Berkeley and all great public universities make to society,” said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. 

Walter Hewlett, son of the late computer magnate who created the foundation, called Berkeley the “crown jewel of public education—not just in California but in the country.”  

Funds would be used to add to the university’s current roster of 351 endowed chairs. 

Currently, $2 million in funding creates an endowed chair bearing the donor’s name, while an additional $1 million adds the adjective “distinguished” to the chair. 

According to a statement from the university’s media relations staff, the grant and its matching funds will create 80 regular endowed chairs “in all of the university’s 14 schools and colleges” and 20 of the distinguished variety “to advance Berkeley’s multidisciplinary teaching and research.” 

None of the chairs will be named for the Hewletts or their foundation, with the honor going instead to the donors providing the matching funds. 

The Hewlett grant is the largest in the university’s history, more than double the $50 million given anonymously in 1999 to fund molecular engineering studies. 

The next largest grant, $40 million, came in 2005 from Hong Kong industrialist Li Ka Shing’s foundation to fund research by the university Health Sciences Initiative. He is being honored in return by the name of the new building which will house the research—a structure that will replace the existing Earl Warren Jr. Hall. 

University officials pointed to the school’s need for endowments, with its current endowed funding of $2.5 billion trailing schools like Harvard ($29.2 billion), Stanford ($14.1 billion) and MIT ($8.4 billion). 

Prior to the grant announced Monday, the university had a total of $468 million in funds for endowed chairs.