November 18, 2021

The Welch Foundation Announces Retirement of Dr. Peter B. Dervan

Distinguished Scientific Advisory Board chair to be honored by endowed lecture series at The University of Texas at Austin

Houston, TX – November 18, 2021 – The Welch Foundation, one of the nation’s largest sources of private funding for basic chemical research, has announced Dr. Peter B. Dervan will retire from the foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board where he has served for 33 years, with 7 years as Chair. To honor Dr. Dervan’s many contributions to the foundation and the field of chemistry, the Welch Foundation has established The Peter B. Dervan Distinguished Lecture Series, an endowed lectureship at the University of Texas at Austin.

Peter Dervan’s accomplishments while on the Scientific Advisory Board have been tremendous. During his tenure as a science advisor, Dervan recommended to the Directors that over $500 million in grants be approved for funding. Dervan also selected or participated in selecting at least 7 of the current Scientific Advisory Board members and 2 previous members, reshaping the composition of the science board to accommodate the ever-expanding scope of chemical research.

“Under Peter’s leadership, The Welch Foundation has impacted countless researchers, faculty and students across Texas as they work towards scientific breakthroughs that will change lives,” said Carin Barth, Chairman of The Welch Foundation Board of Directors “We appreciate his years of service and hope that this lecture series will inspire future generations of scientists for years to come.”

The Peter B. Dervan Distinguished Lecture Series, will be an endowed lectureship in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, funded by a $525,000 gift given by The Welch Foundation. Of this gift, $500,000 will be used to create a permanent endowment to establish and support the lecture series, while the remaining $25,000 will provide support for the inaugural lecture in 2021 – 2022. Through this series, the University will host an annual lecture and invite a highly distinguished scientist to speak. The annual event will be followed by a reception and dinner to thank the speaker and to recognize Peter B. Dervan for his contributions to the field of chemistry and to The Welch Foundation.

“We are extremely grateful for the continued support provided by The Welch Foundation and for its generous gift of this new Distinguished Lecture Series,” said Sharon L. Wood, Executive Vice President and Provost at The University of Texas at Austin and former Dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. “We look forward to celebrating the legacy of Dr. Dervan and bringing in outstanding members of the engineering and science communities to inspire our students, faculty and staff through these lectures.”

Peter B. Dervan received his B.S. degree from Boston College, and Ph.D. at Yale. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and began his association with Caltech as an assistant professor in 1973. Professor Dervan served as chair of Caltech’s division of chemistry and chemical engineering from 1994 to 1999. Currently, Dervan is the Bren Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology. Dervan pioneered a field of chemistry with studies directed toward understanding the chemical principles for the sequence specific recognition of DNA.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the French Academy of Sciences and the German National Academy of Sciences. Professor Dervan received the 2006 National Medal of Science from President Bush “for his fundamental research contributions at the interface of chemistry and biology and his influence in education and industrial innovation.” Other awards include the Harrison Howe Award (1988), Arthur C. Cope Award (1993), Willard Gibbs Medal (1993), Nichols Medal (1994), Maison de la Chimie Foundation Prize (1996), Remsen Award (1998), Kirkwood Medal (1998), Alfred Bader Award (1999), Max Tishler Prize (1999), Linus Pauling Medal (1999), Richard C. Tolman Medal (1999), Tetrahedron Prize (2000), Harvey Prize (Israel) (2002), Ronald Breslow Award (2005), Wilbur Cross Medal (2005), Frank H. Westheimer Medal (2009), the Prelog Medal (2015), and has been named the recipient of the 2022 Priestly Medal.

He has served on several Scientific Advisory Boards for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries in addition to serving as Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Robert A. Welch Foundation. Dervan is an outstanding teacher, having received several teaching awards given by the undergraduate students at Caltech. Over 60 of Dervan’s former graduate and postdoctoral coworkers hold academic research positions around the world, many of whom are leaders in chemistry, biology and medicine.

The Welch Foundation, based in Houston, is one of the nation’s largest private funding sources for basic chemical research. Since 1954, the organization has contributed more than $1.1 billion to the advancement of chemistry through research grants, departmental grants, endowed chairs and support for other chemistry-related programs in Texas. The Welch Foundation bestows two awards on an annual basis when warranted. The Welch Award in Chemistry recognizes, in a substantial matter, the value of a scientists chemical research contributions for the benefit of humankind, and the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research, recognizes the accomplishments of chemical scientists in Texas who are early in their careers. Each year, the foundation hosts the Welch Conference on Chemical Research in Houston, drawing leading scientists from around the world to explore state-of-the-art research in various areas of chemistry.