April 26, 2017

Lessons in Ambition, Courtesy of the Bailey Scholarship Fund

When Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, reminisces about his childhood, Caltech’s Eudora Hull Spalding Laboratory of Engineering comes to mind. This is where, in a small library on the second floor, he did his homework after school. Meanwhile, a few doors down the hall, his father, Professor James E. “Jay” Bailey, shaped what would become the field of metabolic engineering.

Sean Bailey recently reconnected with Caltech—he joined its Board of Trustees in 2015—and retraced the steps he walked on campus as a schoolboy 35 years ago.

“It was remarkable seeing how much the place had changed,” he says. “But it also took me back and reminded me that I’ve always known how global and diverse and ambitious the Institute is.”

“We used to have barbecues in our backyard, and there would be people from all over the world energetically talking about ideas that could change the world. That is an exciting thing to see as a young kid.”
- Sean Bailey

Inspired by his memories and further motivated with new insights he has gained as a board member, he and his wife, Charmaine Bailey, decided to make a gift that would have an immediate impact on the lives of students at Caltech. The couple has pledged $100,000 to establish a four-year annual scholarship fund to provide need-based financial aid for undergraduates.

The Baileys’ contribution celebrates and reinforces Caltech’s commitment to admitting talented students from all backgrounds, regardless of their ability to pay. Additionally, by creating a current-use scholarship, the Baileys are supplying funds that can be made available right away. They will have the opportunity to meet the students who are benefiting from their philanthropy as early as this spring.

“The Baileys’ generosity helps make it possible for Caltech to significantly reduce the concern many students have when considering how to finance a college education,” explains Jarrid Whitney, executive director of admissions and financial aid. “Need-based scholarships uphold Caltech’s uncompromising commitment to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need while also maintaining our high admissions standards.”

Currently, more than half of Caltech’s undergraduates receive financial assistance. Increasing scholarship support is among the top priorities of Break Through: The Caltech Campaign—a fundraising effort to secure Caltech’s future as a source of transformative discovery for the world.

Beneficiaries of the Dr. James E. Bailey Scholarship fund may appreciate knowing that its namesake, who passed away in 2001, was a beloved mentor and also a pioneer in applying engineering principles to living systems. In the 1970s and ’80s, the textbook he coauthored, Biochemical Engineering Fundamentals, was required reading in almost every biochemical engineering course in the United States.

“I didn’t really grasp then—nor do I to this day, to be honest—what my father and his students were up to in his biochem lab,” Sean Bailey says. “Even so, it has informed how I’ve gone about my life and my career. Because what I did understand was they were ambitious and inventive and thinking without boundaries. Charmaine and I believe it’s worthwhile and exciting to help keep that going.”