Business / Industries

Realty mogul sets up Harvard education fund

By Elizabeth Wu in New York for China Daily (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-23 07:17

Realty mogul sets up Harvard education fund

Zhang Xin (L), the chief executive officer of Soho China Ltd., and her husband Pan Shiyi attend a ceremony in Beijing, China, Jun 25, 2011.[Photo/IC]

The billionaire couple who founded Chinese real estate company SOHO China have given $15 million to Harvard University as part of a $100 million endowment they are establishing for underprivileged Chinese students to attend top universities around the world.

Zhang Xin, SOHO's CEO and her husband Pan Shiyi have set up the SOHO China Scholarship with the donation to Harvard.

"Getting the best education should not only be for those who have the means - it should be for those with the talent," Zhang told The Wall Street Journal.

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Harvard enrolls mostly Chinese students who are sent to the United States for high school by their wealthy parents. Zhang said that the message she and her husband want to send is that SOHO scholarship money is available and "if you're good enough you should apply."

Zhang was a factory worker in Hong Kong and then studied on full scholarships at the University of Sussex and Cambridge University in the UK.

She went on to become an investment banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Her husband grew up in an impoverished part of western China. The couple have a combined wealth of about $3.6 billion, according to Shanghai-based Hurun Research Institute.

In June 2013, a group led by Zhang paid a reported $1.4 billion for a 40 percent stake in the most expensive US building on the market - the General Motors office tower in midtown Manhattan.

In one of the largest purchases of a single US property by a Chinese investor, the family of Zhang, head of the largest property developer in Beijing and Shanghai, teamed up with Brazil's Safra family to buy the interest in the 50-story white marble-clad landmark once owned by Donald Trump.

SOHO China started a foundation to build schools in rural areas of Qinghai and Gansu in western China where Zhang's husband grew up. Zhang and her husband said they are looking to set up other endowments at US colleges and abroad. "It's my turn to be generous to others," she told the Journal.

China currently accounts for the largest contingent of foreign students, with more than 235,000 studying in the US in the 2012-2013 school year, up 21 percent from the previous year, according to the Journal.

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