John S. and Sherry Chen
April 22, 2016

New Chen Professorship Supports Research in Sustainability and Energy

Caltech trustee John S. Chen (MS ’79) and his wife, Sherry, have pledged $1.5 million to support Institute scholars who are searching for solutions to the major environmental challenges facing our planet.

The endowed John S. and Sherry Chen Professorship will generate funds to support a faculty member pursuing energy science and sustainability research. The selected professor also could draw upon resources and collaborations through the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech, which brings together multidisciplinary teams of engineers and scientists to address a wide range of problems related to sustainability. Recent projects include the development of synthetic fuels and a power grid that incorporates energy from renewable sources, as well as the invention of an innovative solar-powered waste management system for developing countries.

“For generations to come, some of the most important and difficult questions facing humanity are likely to relate to understanding the science behind climate change and how our civilization can mitigate the effects of potentially rapid environmental change,” says Caltech Provost Edward M. Stolper, the Carl and Shirley Larson Provostial Chair and William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology. “The Chens’ gift will help Caltech to continue to play the role that all institutions of higher learning must play in addressing such questions.”

“Caltech has big dreams, and we need to make a commitment to this amazing place so that it continues to be a world leader in scientific knowledge and discovery.”
- Caltech trustee John S. Chen (MS '79)

As philanthropists, the Chens direct their giving to causes that benefit children from underserved communities in the United States and around the globe. With this professorship, the Chens affirm their belief in the potential of scientific breakthroughs to make a lasting difference for humanity as well as in Caltech’s leading role in helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.

“Caltech tackles a different dimension of problems,” says John Chen, who serves as the chief executive officer and executive chairman of the board for BlackBerry. “By investing in sustainability-focused research, Sherry and I can help the Institute eliminate barriers to a cleaner environment so people, including children, can live better, longer lives in some of the poorest parts of the world.”

The Chens’ pledge will have the impact of a $3 million commitment thanks to the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Matching Program. The program matches—dollar for dollar—new endowed gifts that support faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students whose investigations are aligned with or who work directly with the Resnick Sustainability Institute. Caltech trustee Stewart Resnick and his wife, Lynda, funded the matching program and are longtime supporters of the research hub that bears their name.

John Chen previously held executive roles at Sybase, Inc., Siemens AG, Pyramid Technology Corporation, and Burroughs Corporation. He also sits on several boards, including those of the Walt Disney Company, Wells Fargo & Company, and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

A member of the Caltech Board of Trustees since 2008, John Chen says his leadership role has deepened his appreciation of his alma mater.

“I believe it’s the duty of everyone in this community to support the Institute in some way,” he says. “Caltech has big dreams, and we need to make a commitment to this amazing place so that it continues to be a world leader in scientific knowledge and discovery.”