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DAA: Fujiang Wen

Fujiang Wen

Taian, Shandong, China | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2011

Fujiang Wen is one of China’s leading plant virologists — a noteworthy achievement in itself. But he is also a university president who has guided his institution through extraordinary growth in both size and quality. And as an appointed representative to his country’s provincial and national assemblies, he serves on committees that develop policies on education, science, agriculture, and rural development that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese people. This highly educated, highly regarded figure grew up so poor that he did not walk until age 5 due to malnutrition; food was scarce in his rural village. Curious about the diseases that diminished his village’s grain harvest, he enrolled in Shandong Agricultural College (SDAU), where he discovered his passion for plant pathology. His subsequent graduate study at Purdue focused on studies of barley yellow dwarf virus and the use of various strategies to prevent or reduce losses from this important cereal crop virus. After completing his doctoral degree, he remained at Purdue as a postdoctoral associate working on various aspects of transgenic rice biotechnology. In 1992, he accepted a faculty position at SDAU, becoming one of the first Chinese plant pathologists trained in the United States to return to China. He quickly established his reputation as an outstanding research scientist and was promoted to full professor in two years. He was awarded a prestigious, two-year Rice Biotechnology Career Fellowship from The Rockefeller Foundation. Dedicated to promoting his discipline in China, he has trained many graduate students and helped launch their careers as scientists. Wen became president of his alma mater in 2002. During his tenure, enrollment more than doubled, to approximately 32,000 in 2010. Annual research funding increased from $20 million to $130 million. He is heartened by the progress: “Every year in the graduation season, when I see the undergraduates and graduates walk out of the university, I feel I get a reward with the greatest honor.”