Baidu executive donates $14.5M to university

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Ma Dongmin, special assistant to the chairman of Chinese internet giant Baidu, has donated 100 million yuan ($14.5 million) to the University of Science and Technology of China.

Ma Dongmin. [File photo provided to]

The money will be used to support the university in several areas, including development of the School of the Gifted Young, an extension of its Class of the Gifted Young, according to a news release issued by USTC.

The statement describes Ma's current title as special assistant to the chief executive officer of Baidu, which is chaired by Robin Li, Ma's husband.

Instead of naming the fund after her, she named it after her favorite flower, qiangwei, or Rosa multiflora, which Ma called "very vibrant".

The Class of the Gifted Young at USTC opened in 1978, when China began its reform and opening-up.

"Since then, we have been provided with a wide range of educational opportunities and chances to guide our own lives," said Ma at a brief donation ceremony at USTC on Sunday.

The class, the first of its kind in China, permits students to skip a few years of middle school and high school before entering the university. Ma was enrolled in the class in 1985 at age 15.

She went to the United States for further education after five years of undergraduate studies at USTC and earned a PhD. She met her husband in 1995 in the US and married him the same year. The couple returned to China and jointly founded Baidu in Beijing in 2000.

USTC said the donation is the largest ever made by an individual in its 60-year history.

Ma said she made the donation partly to congratulate the university on its 60th anniversary. A large number of alumni will gather at a celebratory event on Thursday.

Ma was ranked the ninth richest Chinese woman in 2017, with personal wealth of 28 billion yuan, according to the Hurun Research Institute.

Earlier this year, Li and Ma donated money and assets valued at 660 million yuan to Peking University, where Li finished his undergraduate studies, to mark the university's 120th anniversary.

The donation to Peking University was made by the couple's company fund-a practice that is popular among China's IT tycoons.

Last year, Liu Qiangdong, founder and CEO of JD, donated 300 million yuan to Beijing-based Renmin University of China for an education fund named after the company, from which the money came.

Ma's practice has been adopted by other billionaires. In 2015, Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba, donated 100 million yuan of his own money to Hangzhou Normal University for an education fund named after him.

All the donations were made ahead of major anniversary celebration events.

In another development, Liao Qingqing, a graduate of South China University of Technology, donated 50 million yuan to the university on Tuesday. It was the largest donation since 2012. A building on campus was named after Liao.

Liao was admitted into the university's chemical engineering department in 1963. She and her husband, Ye Chenghai, jointly founded Shenzhen Salubris Pharmaceuticals Co in 1998. It was listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2009.

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