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March 7, 2002

Clara & C.C. Li establish GSPH endowment

World-renowned Pitt geneticist Li Ching Chun — better known to Westerners as C.C. Li — and his wife Clara L. Li have established an endowment at the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH).

The C.C. Li Endowed Research and Education Fund in Human Genetics will provide resources to support research and education in human genetics at GSPH, according to Larry Karnoff, Pitt's director of planned giving.

Li, professor emeritus of human genetics and biostatistics, came to Pitt in 1951, a recruit of Thomas Parran, the first dean of Pitt's School of Public Health (now GSPH). Among many career highlights, Li was named president of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) in 1961; he received the ASHG lifetime achievement award for excellence in genetics education in 1998.

His research interests include human population genetics, segregation analysis, path analysis, experimental designs and paternity problems.

A native of China, Li became persona non grata there for publishing and teaching genetic theories that did not conform to state-sponsored teachings following the 1949 establishment of a Communist government in mainland China. Li was forced to resign his position at National Peking University. He fled with his family to Hong Kong, where he was, in effect, trapped without a passport or documentation of citizenship and unable to obtain a visa. Friends and colleagues, particularly Hermann J. Muller, a Nobel laureate geneticist who admired Li's work, came to the rescue by helping cut through the red tape and allowing Li to emigrate to the U.S.

"I did not give to the University as much as the University gave to me," Li said, referring to his endowment gift. "I was a 'D.P.' — a displaced person — without nationality when Dr. Parran recruited me to the public health school. This is my way of repaying him and saying thank you to the public health school."

(For a detailed account of Li's experiences, see University Times, Nov. 25, 1998.)

–Peter Hart

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