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Distributed February 26, 2005
Contact Mark Nickel

Meeting of the Brown Corporation
$20M Gift Will Support Center for Computational Molecular Biology

The Corporation of Brown University has formally accepted a gift that will provide five new professorships for the Center for Computational Molecular Biology. The Corporation also established new named professorships and accepted other gifts in support of the Plan for Academic Enrichment.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Corporation of Brown University formally accepted a $20-million gift in support of its new Center for Computational Molecular Biology (CCMB). The gift, made by a Brown trustee, will help build the CCMB in a dramatic way. Sixteen million dollars of the gift will be used to endow and support five professorships in academic departments that are directly involved in activities of the center:

  • Computer Science;
  • Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology;
  • Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry;
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; and
  • Applied Mathematics.

The remaining $4 million will support graduate and undergraduate research and teaching programs in computational molecular biology.

“By endowing professorships in five different academic departments, this generous and visionary gift highlights the University’s unique strength in developing multidisciplinary programs,” said Brown President Ruth J. Simmons. “Computational molecular biology is a young and rapidly developing field in which Brown University will play a significant national role.”

The sequencing of genomes for humans and other species has offered scientists a flood of new biological information. Brown established the CCMB to support research that will take the data-processing tools of mathematics, statistics and computer science and apply them to key questions about human development, aging and evolution. Research will also shed light on the causes of, and treatments for, diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

“The genomes offer enormous promise for science and society, and this very generous gift will help us meet that promise,” said Chip Lawrence, professor of applied mathematics, who came to Brown last fall as the CCMB’s first director. “The gift also highlights Brown’s clear commitment to computational molecular biology, a level of commitment few universities have made.”


In addition to the five professorships endowed through the $20-million gift to the CCMB, the Corporation formally accepted gifts to establish the following endowed positions:

  • The Alan G. Hassenfeld Professorship in Pediatrics will support an outstanding physician-scientist in the Department of Pediatrics, who will teach and conduct research in pediatric oncology. The gift establishing the chair was made in honor of Dr. Edwin Forman’s contributions to the care of pediatric cancer patients and to biomedical ethics.
  • The University Professorship in Computer Science will support a distinguished senior scholar in the Department of Computer Science, who will play an important and continuing role in interdisciplinary studies involving information technology research and teaching. Funding for the chair came from friends and former students of Andries van Dam, professor of computer science and vice president for research, who wished both to recognize van Dam’s work at Brown and to mark the 25th anniversary of the Department of Computer Science. The professorship will be renamed in van Dam’s honor upon his retirement from the faculty.

Appointments to Named and Endowed Chairs

  • Osvaldo Sala has been appointed the Sloan Lindemann and George Lindemann Jr. Distinguished Professor in Environmental Studies. Sala joined the faculty this year as professor of biology to lead the Environmental Change Initiative and to serve as director of the Center for Environmental Studies.
  • Jingming Xu has been appointed the Harrison S. Kravis University Professor. Xu joined the Brown faculty in 1999 with a joint appointment as professor in the Division of Engineering and the Department of Physics.

Other Gifts

University policy requires formal acceptance by the Corporation of all gifts to the University of $1 million or more. The Corporation formally received:

  • A gift of $5 million from Susan P. and Richard A. Friedman to create a 24-hour study center in the Sciences Library (see news release 04-093) and to support the Brown Annual Fund;
  • a gift of $2.5 million from a fellow emeritus and his wife to endow an assistant professorship in environmental studies, to increase the library endowment, to create undergraduate teaching and research assistantships and to the Brown Annual Fund; and
  • a gift of $2.3 million from a University fellow to establish an endowment for the Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning.


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