Endowed Professorships

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Best and Brightest: Endowed Professorships at the School of Engineering

The Stanford University School of Engineering is fortunate to count among its faculty many luminaries whose work achieves a level of excellence that stands apart. These faculty members have made the School of Engineering one of the truly great technical institutions in the world. They embody the very best that Stanford can offer and all that we value as a university – excellence, innovation, education, and service.

An endowed professorship is the highest honor the university can bestow upon faculty. The donors who make these possible are an elite group of Stanford’s most visionary and generous friends.

Seeking Solutions

At 16, Coleman Fung emigrated from Hong Kong to New York City. In 1989, he received his master’s degree from Stanford in industrial engineering (now part of the Department of Management Science and Engineering). Fung had a lucrative career on Wall Street when he grew frustrated by conventional risk management technologies. In 1992, he founded OpenLink Financial, a platform that combined risk architectures from different markets to revolutionize financial and commodity trading.

In recent years, Fung has put his personal fortune and philosophy to good work as a social entrepreneur via the Coleman Fung Foundation. He has funded educational programs for underserved minority children, delivered school materials to Mali, subsidized veteran housing, and helped restore the Chesapeake Bay.

Stanford Professor Margaret BrandeauIn 2011, Fung endowed The Coleman F. Fung Professorship in the School of Engineering, a chair held today by Professor Margaret Brandeau, an expert in applied mathematical and economic models. Brandeau is particularly concerned with research in HIV treatment, health policy, and bioterrorism preparedness.

“Engineering and AIDS may seem unrelated, but as Coleman demonstrates, engineers are interested in finding solutions to the world’s biggest challenges – human health, environmental sustainability, renewable energy, a safer planet, and greater human connectedness. We are applying the tools of our profession in surprising ways to do just that,” Professor Brandeau said.

Fung credits Stanford Engineering with instilling personal confidence. “Stanford Engineering taught me to try anything, and that led directly to OpenLink’s success,” said Fung. “With this endowment, I wanted to inspire fellow engineers to follow the example set by Dr. Brandeau.”

“The skills of management science and engineering are desperately needed in public health research,” said Professor Brandeau. “The school is in a much stronger place today and positioned well for the future because of endowed professorships.”


Nicholas Hoff took a different course to endowing a chair. When he was a young engineer in Hungary, he wrote to the famous Stanford engineer Stephen Timoshenko about attending Stanford for a PhD in structural mechanics. Hoff was admitted and received his doctorate in 1942. He went on to make a name for himself in academia at Brooklyn Polytechnic designing aircraft structures.

In 1957, Dean Fred Terman lured him back to Stanford to found the Department of Aeronautical Engineering (now known as the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics). The department flourished under Hoff’s leadership, garnering a reputation for excellence and congeniality that exists to this day. Even after retirement, Hoff influenced the department for the next quarter century, making twice-weekly visits to campus until his death in 1997.

In his will, Hoff endowed the Vivian Church Hoff Professorship of Aircraft Structures to acknowledge the field he held dear and to honor his first wife’s love of education and learning.

The initial Vivian Church Hoff Professorship of Aircraft Structures was bestowed upon Department Chair Charbel Farhat. “Nick Hoff founded the Department of Aeronautical Engineering at Stanford and set the tone for all that we have become. It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by an endowment established by such a great engineer,” said Professor Farhat.

Underwriting the Future

Stanford Engineering views endowed professorships differently from other universities, which utilize the endowments to provide unrestricted funds to support the research of the honored professors. Instead, the school establishes a principal investment that generates income to guarantee the professor’s salary and key administrative costs in perpetuity.

“This structure,” explained Professor Farhat, “acknowledges the accomplishments of a worthy faculty member, while it frees funds to attract top young faculty to Stanford.”

Endowed professorships, said Professor Farhat, ensure the school’s continued excellence and leadership and solidify its place in the vanguard of the world’s great research institutions.

Endowed Professorships Giving and Recognition

  • An endowed professorship is established with a gift of $4 million.
  • The annual payout from the endowed fund provides the majority of the salary and administrative support for a professorship in perpetuity.
  • Donors have the opportunity to develop lasting connections with the most distinguished scholars of their generation, engineers who combine brilliant research, inspirational teaching, and leadership to the School of Engineering and Stanford University.
  • Donors and their professors, and their respective family and friends are hosted by the dean at an event to celebrate the appointment to the chair.
  • Professors share updates on their research and teaching. Face-to-face meetings between donors and professors are often arranged.
  • Donors receive an annual financial report on endowment performance.
  • Donors become lifetime members of the Dean’s Circle. They receive invitations to an annual event at which they can interact and network with peers, faculty, and students while learning about the school’s latest achievements and challenges.
  • Donors and the professorship are recognized in the Huang Engineering Center and on the university’s professorship website.