Alumni Helen and Morgan Chu pledge $10 million to benefit UCLA Institute of American Cultures
The couple's gift will strengthen ethnic studies at UCLA and advance research in support of social justice
February 29, 2024
Longtime donors to UCLA, the Chus participated in student-led protests in the 1960s that brought about the creation of UCLA's ethnic studies centers.
Their latest gift is intended to create four endowed chairs and provide wider support for the work of the UCLA Institute of American Cultures.
The funding will help the campus remain a leader at a critical time for research and programs related to race and ethnic studies and Native and Indigenous studies.
Helen and Morgan Chu, whose student activism in the late 1960s helped launch UCLA's ethnic studies centers, have pledged $10 million to the UCLA Institute of American Cultures, the largest gift ever made to the institute.
The Chus have been longtime supporters of the university that brought them together more than five decades ago. Their previous philanthropy led to the creation of the Morgan and Helen Chu Chair in Asian American Studies, the Helen and Morgan Chu Director's Chair of the Asian American Studies Center and the Morgan & Helen Chu Scholarship Fund for undergraduate students.
The Institute of American Cultures was founded in 1969 to serve as the central hub of the university's four ethnic studies centers, which are dedicated to research, community-based partnerships and civic engagement that advances social and racial justice. Through these efforts - and through events, conferences, grants, fellowships and scholarships - the centers, their students and affiliated faculty members are helping to shape social and cultural realities in the U.S. and beyond.
"We are honored and humbled by Helen and Morgan Chu's remarkable gift, which will advance UCLA's scholarship and teaching related to human identities and some of the most pressing issues of our time," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "UCLA has long been at the forefront of the examination of the histories, cultures, contributions and experiences of different racial and ethnic groups in the United States, and the Chus' investment will allow us to deepen the impact of this essential work."
The Chus' gift is intended to endow an academic chair at the Asian American Studies Center and three directors' chairs - at the American Indian Studies Center, the Chicano Studies Research Center and the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. A portion of the gift will also fund research projects and programming across the institute that will benefit faculty, students and other stakeholders.
The investments UCLA will make thanks to the Chus' gift are aligned with the university's commitment to inclusive excellence and engaged scholarship, including its Rising to the Challenge and Native American and Pacific Islander Bruins Rising initiatives. In addition, UCLA is currently pursuing official federal designations as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander–Serving Institution.
The Chus: Bridging the gulfs that separate people
During their time as undergraduates, the couple were part of the multiracial coalition of student leaders whose dedicated activism and advocacy ultimately led to the founding of UCLA's ethnic studies centers in 1969 - a moment that established UCLA as a pioneer in the field.
Helen Chu earned her bachelor's degree from UCLA and went on to a long career as a public school teacher. Morgan Chu earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from UCLA before earning a master's degree from Yale University and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School. A specialist in intellectual property, he is one of the nation's preeminent trial lawyers.
Head-and-shoulders photo of Morgan Chu (left) and Helen Chu standing outside, with trees and plants in background
Karen Umemoto/UCLA Asian American Studies Center
With their continued support of the UCLA Institute of American Cultures, Helen (right) and Morgan Chu aim to ensure that UCLA remains at the vanguard of ethnic studies.