The fellowships honor the foundation’s cofounder Arnold O. Beckman (PhD ’28) and its former chair, Harry B. Gray, who is the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and founding director of the Beckman Institute at Caltech.
Fellowships help attract talent and foster creative ideas according to Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Caltech’s president, holder of the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair, and professor of physics.
“The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation gives a priceless gift to up-and-coming scientists and engineers at Caltech—the freedom and flexibility they need to follow their curiosity wherever it leads them,” Rosenbaum says. “This powerful gift contributes to our goal of endowing every graduate fellowship at the Institute. We are deeply grateful for the foundation’s philanthropy that so appropriately honors two giants of scientific research and technology, Arnold O. Beckman and Harry B. Gray.”
In keeping with the spirit of a contribution that honors two prominent Caltech chemists, the Beckman-Gray Fellowships carry a preference for certain options within the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
“I’m committed to supporting young investigators,” says Gray, who had a voice in shaping the foundation’s gift. “And I’m very much in favor of the president’s vision to endow all the graduate fellows at Caltech. I really believe this will put Caltech at a new level in terms of recruiting graduate students and faculty.
“This kind of endowed graduate fellowship program will be transformative. I’m hoping lots of people will follow this lead.”
The announcement of the Beckman-Gray Fellowships coincided with a symposium on campus celebrating the 25th anniversary of Caltech’s Beckman Institute, a hub for developing new approaches and technologies that will make possible breakthroughs in chemistry and biology. “Invention and Imagination in the Molecular Sciences: The Shared Legacy of Arnold Beckman and Harry Gray” took place at Caltech’s Ramo Auditorium on November 12 and 13, 2015, timed to honor Gray on his 80th birthday.
Gray, a faculty member at Caltech since 1966, is known for his pioneering work in bioorganic chemistry. His investigations have unearthed fundamental insights into electron transfer in biological processes—a molecular mechanism underlying essential activities of living things such as breathing and photosynthesis. Gray has received the National Medal of Science, the American Chemical Society’s Priestley Medal, the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences, and the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, among other accolades.
Beckman, who died in 2004 at the age of 104, served as a Caltech faculty member, benefactor, and chair of the Board of Trustees.
An inventor who opened up new possibilities for chemists, he invented the pH meter and the spectrophotometer, which uses visible light to facilitate tasks such as chemical analysis. He founded the company that would become Beckman Instruments while still serving as a faculty member in Caltech’s Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
Beckman was a key investor at the beginning of both Silicon Valley and the biotechnology industry. Additionally, he pushed for policy changes that significantly reduced air pollution in Southern California and nationally. He was recognized with such honors as the National Medal of Technology, the National Medal of Science, and the Presidential Citizens Medal, as well as Caltech’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Together with his wife, Mabel, he gave generously to advance his alma mater. Campus landmarks commemorating the couple’s giving include the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Laboratory of Chemical Synthesis, the Mabel and Arnold Beckman Laboratories of Behavioral Biology, and Beckman Auditorium.
Gray considers the Beckman-Gray Fellowships the next important chapter in that legacy.
“Arnold and Mabel Beckman wanted to support young people. That was their main interest. We’re just carrying on what I knew they really wanted to do after years of meeting with them,” Gray says. “I think they would very much approve.”
The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation has carried on the family’s tradition of philanthropy with programs such as Beckman Young Investigators, Beckman Scholars, and the G. Patricia Beckman Graduate Fellowships at Caltech.
Adds Anne Hultgren, executive director of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation: “There is no better way to honor Arnold O. Beckman and Harry B. Gray than by continuing their tradition of supporting talented young scholars to reach their full potential. With the additional support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Graduate Fellowship Match, we are pleased to be able to create this opportunity within the Caltech community.”
The Gordon and Betty Moore Graduate Fellowship Match is available for new gifts and pledges to endow graduate fellowships. For more information about the match and how to support graduate education at Caltech, please email email@example.com or call (626) 395‑4863.