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Double Legacy

UC parents make gift for education and the environment

The Liu family stand close for a family picture
Photo: Courtesy of Bill and Lisa Liu

For Bill and Lisa Liu, loyalty to your alma mater can be an intergenerational thing. Although neither of them attended the University of California themselves, they got to know the institution through their two sons. James Liu majored in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA and then went to UC Davis for veterinary school. Alex Liu graduated from the College of Natural Resources with a major in molecular toxicology in 2006. Their parents were so impressed by the quality of education and research within the UC system that they decided to give back to it. Last year, as part of the Berkeley Endowments to Attract and Retain Graduate Students (BEAR GradS) program, they established the William and Lisa Liu Fellowship for Environmental Studies at CNR.

“We’re passionate about both the environment and the mission of this public university,” says Bill. “The natural world is in a crisis of our own making. Our state and nation face critical problems that demand solutions from the top minds in the country.”

Both senior Lius represent, in their heritage, an international diversity not uncommon in the United States. Born in Taiwan, Bill moved to Washington, DC, when his family immigrated to the United States in 1966. Lisa, a third-generation American, was born in El Paso, Texas. Her paternal grandfather emigrated from China in 1912 at the age of 12, and her maternal grandparents came from Guangdong Province in the early 1920s.

The couple, who met in the DC area and married in 1979, personally understand the value of graduate student fellowships. Both earned advanced degrees—he an MBA at the University of Maryland, she a doctorate in cognition and communication from the University of Chicago.

As they raised their young family, the Lius moved around the country, landing in the Bay Area in 1987. After reading a book called The New Papyrus, about the emergent medium of CD-ROMs, Bill designed, sourced, and assembled the components to make the first portable CD-ROM drive in his living room, before founding Custom Design Technology that same year. Today, capitalizing on the strengths of his small-business-development experience and fluency in Mandarin, Bill’s current company, Silkroad RV, exports recreational vehicles from the United States to China. Lisa developed educational software for 20 years and now works in Saratoga as a librarian for the Santa Clara County Library District.

“We feel strongly that climate change, conservation, and sustainability are the world’s most pressing problems,” says Lisa. “We also emphatically believe that graduate education is vital—not only for deserving students but also as part of a larger research program focused on the complicated problems facing our state and nation. We’re so fortunate to have these top-notch scientists within the UC system, and we can’t think of a better way to use our resources than to endow a CNR graduate fellowship at Berkeley. Imagine what these students could do if they all had fellowships.”

The Generosity of BEAR GradS

The Lius made their gift as part of a matching-gift program launched by Berkeley’s Graduate Division in 2015. The Berkeley Endowments to Attract and Retain Graduate Students (BEAR GradS) program provides a match of $500,000 for donor gifts of $500,000. Matches are made possible through generous bequests from the estates of Helene I. Cantor ’35, William V. Power ’30, and Raymond H. Berner. The Liu gift is the second such fund established with CNR.

CNR invites parents to consider making a generous gift to create a fellowship or otherwise support the student experience. Visit our giving page for information on how to give.