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$10M gift will name new John and Donna Crean School of Health and Life Sciences

September 8, 2010

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In a major boost to its science program, Chapman University has received a $10 million gift from The Crean Foundation to name the new John and Donna Crean School of Health and Life Sciences.

The school will be one of three academic units under the umbrella of Chapman’s Schmid College of Science; the others are the School of Computational Sciences and the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Chapman University President Jim Doti said, “I am particularly grateful for and touched by this gift because the late John Crean was a good friend of mine and one of my personal heroes.  I know that he would be pleased and proud today knowing that this generous gift will educate our students to truly make a difference in the world.  With a world-class faculty already aboard, our John and Donna Crean School of Health and Life Sciences will be poised to join the ranks of California’s major schools of health science.  Its graduates will be trained and educated to take their places in health career fields that are in critical demand not only here in Orange County, but across the nation and around the world.”

The development of the new Crean School of Health and Life Sciences has already begun, said Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., dean of the Schmid College of Science.  Potential areas of study to expand or establish are in health sciences, computational biology, bioengineering, medical and the occupational radiological and environmental health sciences. These will complement existing strengths in bioscience, pre-medicine, psychology, health communications and physical therapy.

“Unlike traditional schools of health science, where learning is primarily theoretical, Chapman’s Crean School of Health and Life Sciences model will combine advanced research — for example, in neuroscience, computational biology and psychology — with practical experience at both the undergraduate and graduate levels,” said Dr. Kafatos.

Another key distinction will be the existing presence of the Schmid College of Science’s computational science team, headed by Dr. Kafatos.  “The existence of computational sciences in the Schmid College of Science with several faculty members, including Drs. Michael Fahy, Daniele Struppa and Susan Yang, applying cutting-edge computation and mathematical techniques to biological science problems, present great opportunities for interdisciplinary approaches to the large health issues facing today’s society,” said Dr. Kafatos.

Computational modeling and simulation can have great impact on virtually every area of biomedical study, Dr. Kafatos said.  “The possibilities are virtually endless.  Adding the design of computational models to electrophysiological experiments that study spinal cord network activity, for example, will create new tools for scientists to better understand and eventually provide treatments for a wide variety of disorders.”  He added that programs in computational biochemistry and biophysics, which make extensive use of structural modeling and simulation methods, will be beneficial for students interested in pursuing careers in medicine or bioengineering.

Chapman University is a longtime beneficiary of the generous spirit of the Crean family.  Through the years, the late John Crean, his wife Donna and the family’s Crean Foundation have supported a number of programs and projects across the campus, including significant gifts to the New Chapel Fund (1996), the Crean Orchestral Recital Hall (2002), the John and Donna Crean Library of Film and Television in Chapman’s Leatherby Libraries (including the gift of a collection of historic autographed material from the cast of Gone With the Wind) (2004), and the John and Donna Crean Film and Media Archive and Special Collection in the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts (2007).  John Crean also served as a member of Chapman’s Board of Trustees.  Other members of the Crean family remain active and involved with the university.

In April 2010, in honor of the continuing generosity and friendship of the Crean family, Chapman University dedicated Crean Hall (formerly known as the Western Cordage Building), which currently houses the Physical Therapy and Health Communications programs and will soon house the Psychology department, on West Palm Avenue in Orange.  The hall will eventually be a part of Chapman’s new science center on the west campus, now in the fund-raising and planning stages.

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