California businessman, company donate $5.5 million to WVU, forensic program West Virginia University and its Forensic and Investigative Science program will benefit from gifts and in-kind donations totaling more than $5.5 million from California businessman and philanthropist Ming Hsieh (pronounced SHAY) and Cogent, Inc. Hsieh is the chief executive officer, president and chairman of Cogent, a global biometric identification company that provides solutions to governments, law enforcement agencies and commercial enterprises.
"This is a truly generous gift, and one that will have a positive impact on the lives of West Virginia University students," said WVU President Mike Garrison. "I speak for the entire University in expressing our gratitude and our appreciation of the example Ming Hsieh has set in his life as a scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist."
The contributions will support several projects at WVU, including helping fund construction and outfitting of a new classroom building on the downtown WVU campus. The building, dedicated Nov. 14, will be named Ming Hsieh Hall in honor of Hsieh's generous philanthropy. The Hsieh Family Foundation, of which Hsieh is founder and president, has pledged $2 million toward construction of the new building.
Located behind historic Oglebay Hall, Ming Hsieh Hall consists of four general purpose classrooms which are fitted with the University's new standard technology, including retractable projector screens, DVD and VHS players, and an AMX touch-screen panel that controls all the audio-visual effects in each classroom. Large picture windows on the second floor of Ming Hsieh Hall reveal striking views of the Downtown Campus and the surrounding mountains.
In addition to support for construction of Ming Hsieh Hall, The Hsieh Family Foundation has also pledged $1 million to establish two endowed funds in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. Endowed funds will create The Ming Hsieh Distinguished Professor of Forensic and Investigative Science and The Ming Hsieh Distinguished Teaching Professor of Forensic and Investigative Science.
"We are a grateful college," said Dean Mary Ellen Mazey. "The Eberly College and its FIS students have been dramatically affected by Mr. Hsieh's generosity to WVU and his concern for future teaching and research in this growing field so important to our country."
Establishing these professorships was especially important to Hsieh since he has an interest in training, mentoring and nurturing the next generation of forensic scientists. The FIS program at WVU is one of only ten accredited undergraduate programs in the U.S. and is generally regarded as the nation's top academic program in the field.
Cogent is providing the forensic program with new state-of-the-art forensic technology for use by faculty and students.
"We are very pleased to make this gift to the Forensic and Investigative Science program at West Virginia University," Hsieh said. "The gift will give students and faculty access to state-of-the art equipment used by many federal and civil agencies around the world. WVU is a respected partner of many federal agencies that utilize forensic biometric technology, and we are excited to assist them as they continue the important work of education and development in the area of forensic science."
Cogent's gift includes four fingerprint livescans and a fully-functional Automated Fingerprint/Palm Print Identification System (AFIS) with the latest generation of Cogent's Programmable Matching Accelerator (PMA) server. The server is an industry-leading, high-speed fingerprint image matcher that is based on commercial off-the-shelf equipment. It is being used successfully by law enforcement and civilian agencies around the world. In addition, Cogent will give the program 25 AFIS workstations that provide the ability to do latent and ten print editing and searches. The value of this in-kind gift is estimated at approximately $2.5 million.
"Students at WVU will be working daily with the most sophisticated crime-solving technology available in the field," said Keith Morris, forensic program director. "The contribution by Cogent will provide our students with world-class resources in their courses and in hands-on research activitiesâ€”a great benefit to their education and career preparation."
Ming Hsieh was born in China. In 1976, he passed university entrance examinations and enrolled in the electrical engineering department of the South China University of Technology. In 1980, Hsieh transferred to the University of Southern California where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering. While a student at USC, he became an American citizen. Because of his educational experiences, Hsieh has been committed to student success in this country.
In 1990, Hsieh founded Cogent. As a result of Cogent's success, Hsieh has generously shared his resources with institutions of higher education, stating that since he was able to "reach the American dream," he wants to help others to do so as well. Hsieh's donations have included $35 million to his alma mater, the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering.
The funds will be administered by the WVU Foundation, a private, non-profit corporation which generates, receives and administers private gifts from individuals and organizations for the benefit of West Virginia University.