A More Colorful (and Music-Filled) Life
Informed by his time at Caltech, including his experiences with the Glee Club, alumnus David Wei has created a fund to support music performances and programs. He hopes others will contribute as well.
As a newly arrived graduate student at Caltech, David Wei (MS ’04, PhD ’07) was wandering around a club fair on Beckman Mall and—despite not considering himself a good singer—felt drawn to the Glee Club booth. After some encouragement and a bit of coaching from then-director Donald Caldwell, Wei was soon a part of holiday performances at Dabney Hall, local churches, and other venues.
“The activity took time from my already very busy schedule, but it was time well spent,” Wei says. “It gave me a break from classes and research, and offered the chance to learn more culture.”
Hands-on Research … and Silk-Screened T-Shirts
Wei came to Caltech from China to study computer science. A graduate of Tsinghua University, he was prepared for the Institute’s academic rigor. He was pleasantly surprised, however, by the degree of interdisciplinary collaboration. Working across departmental boundaries not only inspired the cross-pollination of research ideas, he says, but also fostered close relationships among faculty, staff, and students.
In the laboratory of Steven Low, the Frank J. Gilloon Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences and Electrical Engineering, Wei helped build a high-speed network that enables physicists to share data from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which houses the Large Hadron Collider.
“I enjoyed the hands-on research and engineering in the PhD program, and the various arts programs made my life much more colorful,” Wei says. In addition to participating in the Glee Club, he learned silk screening by making t-shirts for the Caltech C (the Caltech Chinese Association) using the machines that are available to students on campus.
Building a Sustainable Program
Wei believes that co-curricular activities such as the performing and visual arts are crucial to students’ well-being but can be relatively underserved. So—after learning about the Initiative for Caltech Students, a fundraising campaign focused on improving every aspect of the student experience—Wei made a $100,000 gift to create the Performing and Visual Arts Program Fund for Music. The endowed fund will support the performances, programs, and associated activities and needs of the music department.
“I am very happy to know that David enjoyed his time with the Glee Club so much,” says Glenn Price, director of performing and visual arts at Caltech. “His generous gift will allow us to enrich the lives of our students through music in even greater ways.”
Wei chose not to put his name on the fund because he hopes that other donors will contribute. In this regard, he was inspired by his experience as one of dozens of alumni who made gifts to the Caltech C Graduate Fellowship Fund, which now surpasses $1 million. “At the end of the day, we all want to build a sustainable program that can connect alumni who share the same vision,” he says.
An Enduring Imprint
Wei now resides in the Bay Area, where, he says, the close-knit community and high level of trust among Caltech graduates continue to shape his career. He worked for 15 years at Facebook, most recently as vice president of engineering. “As Facebook grew, we had a sizable employee community from Caltech,” he says. His Caltech connections also influenced his move to the AI-driven staffing company Turing, which he joined this year as head of R&D.
Wei says that learning to think from first principles at Caltech also has had a profound effect on how he approaches his work. “I can still hear Steven Low in my head, asking, ‘Why is this important?’”
And his time with the Glee Club left an enduring imprint, as well. “I still sing some of the songs I learned to my kids,” the father of two says with a smile.
If you would like to join David Wei and contribute to the Performing and Visual Arts Program Fund for Music, we invite you to contact Heather Siemienas at firstname.lastname@example.org or (626) 395-8802.