Apr 2, 2020
Professors Sabeeha Merchant and Randy Schekman
A generous donation to create a term chair in UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry has been pledged by Professors Randy Schekman and Sabeeha Merchant.
 
We are extremely pleased to announce a fantastic gift to the department from UCLA alumnus and Nobel Laureate Professor Randy Schekman (BA from UCLA in ’71) and his partner, Professor Sabeeha Merchant, to establish the Randy Schekman and Sabeeha Merchant Centennial Term Chair.
 
The purpose of the chair is to support early career faculty, with the additional key aims of promoting gender equity and diversity within the faculty population and defraying the cost of living in the area. 
 
Schekman and Merchant’s gift is part of the Jung matching gift initiative in our department, as well as the Dean’s match, which will enable us to match their gift two to one. The department is thrilled to have this gift to aid in the recruitment of promising young faculty. We plan to further celebrate this wonderful gift when the pledge is completed and the first chair holder is selected. 
 
Randy Schekman received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2013 for his work into machinery regulating vesicle traffic. A world-renowned cell biologist, Schekman has been a Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Berkeley since 1976.
 
A prominent plant biochemist, Sabeeha Merchant joined the UCLA faculty in 1987 as a Professor of Biochemistry. In 2018, Merchant moved her laboratory to UC Berkeley where she is now a Professor of Plant and Microbial Biology and Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology (Department of Molecular and Cell Biology). 
 
In addition to Merchant, Schekman credits several incredibly strong women in his life that helped influence the creation of this chair and other donations he has made. 
 
Schekman’s mother, Esther, spent part of her childhood in an orphanage when her mother contracted tuberculosis and was treated in a sanitarium for a couple of years. In her later years, his mother was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, which took her life after a two-year battle. His sister, Wendy, was diagnosed with acute leukemia when he was in high school and she lived for only a few months thereafter. In honor of his sister and mother, Randy generously donated his Nobel Prize funds to UC Berkeley to establish the Esther and Wendy Schekman Chair, an endowed chair in basic cancer research.
 
Schekman’s wife of 44 years, Nancy Walls, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when she was just 48 and, after a long and courageous 21-year battle, passed away in 2017. In 2018, Schekman together with colleagues, students, family and friends, established the Nancy Walls and Randy Schekman Fellowship for graduate student support at UC Berkeley in her honor.
 
 
Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.