Foundation Giving Catalyzes Growth Across Occidental’s Science Programs

The lobby of the Anderson Center for Environmental Sciences
The Anderson Center for Environmental Sciences

Throughout Oxy’s history, generous gifts from foundations have built state-of-the-art facilities and strengthened research opportunities for students enrolled in science courses. 

Not only is Occidental one of the country’s top producers of graduates who pursue doctorates in science and engineering, but over the last three decades, our students have earned more than 50 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships, 40 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships and two Rhodes Scholarships. With 40 percent of students pursuing science degrees, Occidental offers a unique approach to a science education, preparing students to be both successful practitioners within their fields and engaged community leaders.

A combination of historic support from longtime foundation partners, as well as new gifts raised through The Oxy Campaign For Good, has generated over $28 million for the chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physics, cognitive science, computer science, geology and kinesiology departments—fortifying these programs’ ongoing successes and elevating their potential for years to come.

Norris Hall of Chemistry’s Midcentury Makeover

In December 2021, the W.M. Keck Foundation granted $5 million to launch a multiphase renovation of the Kenneth T. Norris Hall of Chemistry, Occidental’s 63-year-old chemistry building. The renovation was one of the top needs identified in a report by the college’s Science Task Force composed of alumni, parents and faculty. The W.M. Keck Foundation has a decade-long history of supporting the college’s science programs, including funding for the Hameetman Science Center, Moore Laboratory of Zoology, Anderson Center for Environmental Sciences and Oxy’s summer research program.

Three additional foundations have joined the W.M. Keck Foundation in supporting the renovation of Norris Chemistry. Through a contribution of $500,000 to this project, the Fletcher Jones Foundation continues its deep involvement in Occidental’s campus. (The Foundation also supported the creation of the computer science department’s state-of-the-art computing classroom in the Academic Commons.) Additional support to date comes from the Hearst Foundations and the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation, which respectively have given $200,000 and $500,000 to date to assist with the upgrades to the chemistry hall.

Fueling Future Research Through an Endowed Professorship

In September 2022, the new John Stauffer Chair of Chemistry, the chemistry department’s third endowed professorship established for a tenured faculty member of full professor rank, was created through a $2.5 million gift from the John Stauffer Charitable Trust, a longtime partner of Occidental’s chemistry and biochemistry programs. The Stauffer Chair was awarded to Andrew Udit, in recognition of his nationally renowned teaching, research and scholarship. The John Stauffer Chair of Chemistry is one of three endowed faculty positions in the sciences created during The Oxy Campaign For Good, alongside the Stephen L. Casner ’73 and Karen Johnson Casner ’74 Endowed Professorship for Computer Science and the Michael G. Gibby ’68 and Barbara J. Gibby ’68 Endowed Professorship for Science.

Empowering the Next Generation of Undiscovered Scientists

This year, a new cohort of academically talented underrepresented and first-generation students engaged in faculty-mentored research through the Research Early Access Program (REAP), thanks to a $247,500 grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. Through research opportunities, peer mentorship and a campus speaker series, the Sherman Fairchild Foundation’s gift has cultivated an immersive science community for students who are passionate about biology, chemistry, biochemistry, geology and physics.

A New Environment for Oxy’s Environmental Scientists

The Oxy Campaign For Good shepherded the completion of the Anderson Center for Environmental Sciences. The center now features remodeled instructional and laboratory facilities and modern equipment—including a brand-new research vessel funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation—that are critical to hands-on research in the biology, geology, marine biology and environmental science programs. It also includes the Fletcher Jones Foundation Genomics Center, a collaborative hub for DNA research that houses cutting-edge equipment. The Fletcher Jones Foundation supported the construction of the Center with a  $750,000 grant. The renovation also was supported by The Ahmanson Foundation’s $1.275 million gift, the Endeavor Foundation, the Hearst Foundations’ $150,000 gift and The Rose Hills Foundation’s $500,000 gift.

20 Years in the Hameetman Science Center

Along with these recent enhancements to Oxy’s science program, we are on the eve of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Hameetman Science Center, a 41,000-square-foot, three-story building built in 2004 that houses 23 research and teaching labs, 15 offices and three seminar rooms dedicated to the geology, physics and environmental science programs. Named in honor of Joyce and Fred Hameetman ’61, the $16 million building embodies Occidental’s commitment to placing research at the core of the college’s science curriculum—or as a past Occidental president put it, providing “real education at close range.”