Gift from Roy and Diana Vagelos to Create New Undergraduate Program in Energy Research

PHILADELPHIA –University of Pennsylvania trustee emeritus P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, Hon’99 and his wife, Diana, parents ’90, have made a gift of $13.6 million to Penn to establish the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), an innovative, dual-degree undergraduate program to be offered by the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“As generous friends and visionary leaders at Penn, Roy and Diana understand the value of clearly focused, interdisciplinary education in helping to solve complex problems, and for this we are extremely grateful," said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “The VIPER program is a unique undergraduate program in its focus on a critically important area of study for our country and the world: alternative and efficient energy sources. We all can be proud that VIPER draws on Penn's unique strengths in combining great interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching to address some of the world's most pressing problems.”

Roy and Diana Vagelos are the School of Arts and Sciences’ largest supporters in the University’s Making History fundraising campaign, giving more than $21 million to date. This gift is their third in support of innovative undergraduate science education that highlights interdisciplinary learning. Previous gifts have helped establish the Roy and Diana Vagelos Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences and the Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management, offered jointly by SAS and the Wharton School.

“Roy and Diana’s generosity is making Penn the school of choice for the very best students interested in science that addresses society’s critical needs, first in the life sciences and now, with this gift, in the physical sciences,” said SAS Dean Rebecca Bushnell. “Combined with their substantial support for faculty and facilities, their impact on the future of science at Penn is truly immeasurable.”

The VIPER program is designed to train students for research careers focused on alternative and efficient energies. Students will participate in advanced science and technology courses, specialized seminars, intensive mentoring and several internship opportunities with energy-related laboratories.

“The VIPER program is another extraordinary example of what Penn does so well—educating students in interdisciplinary curricula across its schools,” said SEAS Dean Eduardo Glandt. “Roy and Diana's generous gift builds on Penn's strongest differentiating trait.”

Students enrolled in the VIPER program also will work closely with faculty affiliated with the Penn Center for Energy Innovation, who will mentor VIPER participants and involve them in cutting-edge research on topics such as solar energy, chemical fuels, and energy-efficient electronics and materials. Recruiting for VIPER has begun, and the first freshman class will arrive next September.

According to Dr. Vagelos, his interest in creating this program evolved from what he sees as a pressing social need.

“This is an area that is going to be extremely important for our country and the world. Our country’s use of oil and coal damages our environment, and the dependence on other countries for oil puts the United States in a very difficult economic position,” noting also that “attractive and exciting programs in the sciences can give undergraduates entrée into a world that is almost unlimited. For those trained in the sciences and engineering, energy research is going to be a source of great careers for the next 25 to 50 years.”

Roy Vagelos, a chemistry major who graduated from Penn in 1950 before going on to receive a medical degree from Columbia University, is the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Merck & Co.  He served as chair of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1995 to 1999, and he is a former member of the School of Arts and Sciences’ Board of Overseers and the founding chair of the Committee for Undergraduate Financial Aid.  Diana Vagelos, an alumna of Barnard College in New York City where she serves as Trustee, is a former overseer of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Their many gifts to Penn include the Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management, the Vagelos Endowed Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences, the Vagelos Science Challenge Scholarship Award, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories of the Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Chair in Chemistry and Chemical Biology and support for the renovation of the Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratories.

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