Lan Xue ’90, MA’91, makes generous gift for student scholarships

Lan Xue ’90, MA’91, with President Frederick Lawrence on a recent visit to campus.

By David E. Nathan

Lawrence A. and Mae Wien would be proud.

Lan Xue ’90, MA’91, whose Brandeis education was supported by the Wien International Scholarship Program, which the Wiens established in 1958, recently made a $1 million gift to support student scholarships at the university.

“Coming to the United States to pursue a college degree would not have been possible without the Wien scholarship,” says Xue, a leading financial analyst in her native China. “For the rest of my life, I will be grateful for the opportunity the Wiens gave me to attend a great university. I always thought that if I were in a position to help, I would really like to do what I could.”

Xue says her philanthropy was inspired by the example of her grandmothers, who supported a program that helped girls in rural China receive an education. Typically, if families in the Chinese countryside had money to educate their children, they supported their sons rather than their daughters.

“My grandmothers felt the only way to change a girl’s fate was to provide her an education,” Xue says. “They wanted to help the poorest girls become literate and have an opportunity to live a good life.”

“Lan’s gift is inspirational on many levels,” says President Frederick Lawrence. “Just as Brandeis helped fulfill her grandmothers’ dream and changed Lan’s fate through education, now she will help us change the fate of other deserving young scholars for years to come. Her gift will enable us to maintain our foundational commitment to ensuring that a Brandeis education is accessible and affordable to all. We are enormously grateful.”

Although Xue’s family was somewhat familiar with the West — one grandfather graduated from England’s University of Manchester, and her father, a rocket scientist, was a visiting scholar at MIT — she nevertheless experienced culture shock when she arrived on the Brandeis campus.

“Now, Chinese speak fluent English and frequently watch American movies,” she says. “For us in the 1980s, it was completely different.”

Coming to Brandeis with the intention of studying computer science, Xue switched her major to international economics and finance. She thrived in Brandeis’ small classes and developed close relationships with a number of faculty. A recipient of the Carol Ann Steinfeld Memorial Prize, Xue was selected to speak at the economics department’s mini-commencement ceremony in 1990. 

She launched her career in financial services at Shearson Lehman in 1991, when Wall Street was still dominated by men. She returned to China in 1993 when its stock market opened and, in 1998, became head of China research at Merrill Lynch. Three years later, at age 33, she became the company’s youngest woman managing director. She left Merrill Lynch for Citi in 2002 and built the financial giant’s highly ranked China research team. In 2010, she started her own hedge fund, which now has more than $1 billion in assets.

Xue remembers meeting Lawrence Wien at Brandeis during the Wien program’s 30th-anniversary celebration in 1988. “He talked about how he wanted to launch the Wien program to support students from all over the world,” she remembers. “His hope was that they would go back and serve their countries.” When she returned to campus for the Wien 50th-anniversary gala in 2008, Xue was able to meet Wien’s daughters and sons-in-law.

She believes all alumni should help the university continue to transform lives. “If you are in a position to help, you should give back to help others as you were helped,” Xue says. “It doesn’t matter how much you give. All students who benefited from Brandeis should try to give back.”

Categories: Giving, Alumni Profile
Date: October 27, 2014