A New Home for Energy Research

A record gift from Roy and Diana Vagelos will create an energy science and technology building.

Monday, May 6, 2019

By Lauren Rebecca Thacker

Penn Arts & Sciences received the largest gift in the School’s history: $50 million from P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, PAR’90, HON’99, and Diana T. Vagelos, PAR’90, for a new energy science and technology center. In support of the Power of Penn Arts & Sciences Campaign, the gift benefits faculty, students, and research in pursuit of sustainability.

Diana T. Vagelos, PAR’90, and P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, PAR’90, HON’99

The new building, a facility of Penn Arts & Sciences and Penn Engineering, will be named in honor of Roy and Diana Vagelos and located at 32nd and Walnut Streets. It will provide state-of-the-art research space and homes for the Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology, a collaborative research institute, and the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), an undergraduate dual degree program run jointly by Arts & Sciences and Engineering.

Creating a sustainable planet is a key priority of the Power of Penn Arts & Sciences Campaign. Across the School and the University, researchers have sprung into action, working collaboratively and thinking about creative solutions. The creation of a new building seizes this growing momentum and will act as an incubator for scientists and engineers to engage in cross-disciplinary work and train postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates as future leaders in the field.

“At this critical moment for energy research, I am delighted by the generous gift from Roy and Diana,” says Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. “The new building is a vital part of efforts to create a sustainable planet and facilitate the forward-thinking, collaborative solutions the problem demands. As a home to the Vagelos Institute and VIPER, this facility will be an invaluable resource for today’s top scientists and a fertile training ground for the leaders of tomorrow.”

This facility will truly foster collaboration and ensure that Penn is positioned to make the impacts in energy research that Roy and Diana envision.

Karen Goldberg, Vagelos Professor in Energy Research in the Department of Chemistry and Vagelos Institute Director, says, “The building will provide state-of-the-art laboratory space but equally important, it will be a gathering place that allows scientists now spread across campus to interact in new ways and develop new ideas. Students will learn to apply the tools and methods of other disciplines to push their science ahead even faster. This facility will truly foster collaboration and ensure that Penn is positioned to make the impacts in energy research that Roy and Diana envision.”

“The recent gift from Roy and Diana is simply transformative,” adds David Christianson, Roy and Diana Vagelos Professor in Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Chair of the Department of Chemistry. “This gift will allow us to accelerate the discovery of fundamental new processes and materials in the chemistry of energy transduction and storage and enable collaborations with Penn Engineering as we discover and develop eco-friendly sources of energy and materials for real-life use.”

“Energy research has been important to me and to Diana for years,” says Vagelos. “We’ve seen students and faculty doing extraordinary work, and our hope is that this new building will provide the home and resources that this effort needs to create solutions.”

P. Roy Vagelos, a chemistry major who graduated from Penn in 1950 before going on to receive a medical degree from Columbia University, is the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Merck & Co. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Vagelos served as Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1995 to 1999, and he is a former member of the Penn Arts & Sciences’ Board of Overseers and the founding Chair of the Committee for Undergraduate Financial Aid. Diana T. Vagelos is a former overseer of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The Vageloses’ longtime support of Penn Arts & Sciences includes the Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology, the Vagelos Professorships in Energy Research, VIPER, and several other science-related programs, undergraduate scholarships, and endowed professorships.