The University of California, Berkeley has received a $20 million matching gift from the Hellman Fellows Fund to double the number of fellowships awarded annually to early-career faculty through the Hellman Fellows Program.
The gift will establish the Society of Hellman Fellows, which will award thirty-two fellowships annually to exceptional junior faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; arts and humanities; the social sciences; and the university's ten professional schools. Designed for assistant professors who have exhausted start-up funds (which generally happens after year two), the fellowships will range from $30,000 to $60,000, depending on the proposed research costs. Since its inception twenty-three years ago with support from the late F. Warren and Patricia (Chris) Hellman, the program has awarded fellowships to nearly four hundred young faculty members at Berkeley, with 94 percent of former fellows having gone on to earn tenure.
Warren and Chris Hellman were inspired to launch the program by their daughter Frances, then a faculty member at UC San Diego who had experienced her own challenges as a junior academic working to establish a research career. Warren Hellman was a financier and co-founder of the multibillion-dollar private equity investment firm Hellman & Friedman and is known by many in the Bay Area for launching the free weekend music festival Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Chris Hellman was a former ballet dancer at the San Francisco Ballet and was named the ballet's first chair emeritus.
"The Hellman Fellows Program was created to identify promising young assistant professors who, with that extra help in this critical moment of their career, are able to produce the research that then gets them tenure," said Frances Hellman, dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Berkeley who, with her three siblings — Patricia Hellman Gibbs, Marco Hellman, and Judith Hellman — made the gift to honor their parents' legacy.
"The first few years are challenging for young faculty because external grants are competitive and hard to come by," said UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ. "The Hellman Fellowships provide critical resources to these exceptional scholars, and the university and its students benefit from their success. The impact of the Hellman family’s generosity cannot be overstated. Today, faculty they supported two decades ago are changing the world with their discoveries."