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Chemist named head of Peking University
By He Na and Xie Yu (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-15 09:00

Zhou Qifeng, one of China's top chemists, was inaugurated as the new president of Peking University on Friday.

An inauguration ceremony was held for him at the elite institution's Beijing campus.

Zhou became the university's 10th president since 1949, succeeding Xu Zhihong, 66, who will now retire.

Prior to his appointment, Zhou, 61, had spent the past four years as president of Jilin University. That position will be filled by Zhan Tao, former president of Shandong University.

Zhou Qifeng, the new president of Peking University, speaks at the inauguration ceremony in Beijing November 14, 2008. [China Daily]

Born in 1947 in Hunan province, Zhou graduated from Peking University in 1970, with a bachelor's degree in chemistry.

He went on to obtain a PhD from the University of Massachusetts, United States, in 1983, and was elected as a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1999.

During his tenure at Jilin University, Zhou was known for his bold reforms.

In 2005, he demoted 45 doctoral professors due to their poor performance. Experts said at the time it was "a quake in China's tertiary education circle".

Many students at Jilin University were saddened by Zhou's departure.

Several of them created a video tribute to him, which has become popular viewing material on the university's website.

"It was a tough job being president of Jilin University for four years, but I have to admit that I had the happiest time here," Zhou said on Wednesday, his final day in charge.

"Although I am leaving today, my heart will always be here with you all," he told students and faculty during his farewell speech.

The university awarded him the title of professor emeritus.

"President Zhou is like a father figure," Li Jun, a postgraduate student of Jilin University, said.

"He was always cordial and friendly to people."

In his new role, Zhou said he will work hard to enhance cooperation and exchanges between Peking and Jilin universities.