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Kenneth Fong named SF State Alumnus of the Year

May 15, 2006

Photo of Kenneth FongKenneth Fong the chairman of Kenson Ventures LLC, has been named San Francisco State University's 2006 Alumnus of the Year. Fong, who earned a bachelor's of science degree in biology in 1971, will receive the award at the University's 105th Commencement exercises at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 27, in Cox Stadium. The honor follows his induction into SF State's Alumni Hall of Fame in 1998.

Fong's first experience with genetic research, inside a lab at SF State in 1970, inspired his lifelong passion. Seven years later Fong earned a doctorate in micro and molecular biology at Indiana University. In 1984, after a stint as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health in North Carolina's Triangle Park, he founded Clontech Laboratories Inc. The Palo Alto-based company develops the molecular biology tools that make possible cutting-edge research in gene cloning, analysis and mapping. With Fong at the helm as CEO, Clontech gained 400 employees and a reputation for bringing innovative products to the global marketplace. During each of the last four years of his tenure, from 1994 to 1999, Clontech experienced an average growth rate of 36 percent. The company also enjoyed 48 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth and profits. It was acquired by Becton Dickinson and Co. in 1999.

Since 1999, Fong has served as chairman of Kenson Ventures, a company that specializes in venture financing and strategic consulting to biotech companies. As of April 2006, Kenson is supporting, through funding and advice, 20 companies focused on innovative research tools, platform technologies and drug development.

"My mission is to help these companies from infancy, to help them define their market, grow and be successful," Fong said. "If they can do that, they can help people get employed, become successful and in turn help another generation."

Fong serves on the San Francisco State University College of Science and Engineering Advisory Board. With his wife Pam (B.S., '73) he established an endowed scholarship at SF State in 1998 to assist promising students majoring in biology, computer science and mathematics. The couple also contributes prize money to the College's annual student project showcase.

"We are honored that Kenneth Fong discovered and developed his interest in genetic research on the campus of San Francisco State University," President Robert A. Corrigan said. "The contributions he has made to the field of biotechnology have helped countless researchers in their efforts to improve upon the health and well-being of future generations. We applaud him not only for his professional success but his continuing commitment to helping guide our students into promising scientific careers. He has never forgotten his roots and for that we are deeply grateful."

Fong was born in China, near the city of Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, and later raised in Hong Kong. His father moved to San Francisco, where he worked as a cook, sending money home to pay for Fong's early schooling. Fong attended a teacher-training program before moving to the U.S. in 1966. He attended City College of San Francisco for two years before enrolling at SF State.

"I feel very honored to receive this award," Fong said. "Returning to the college I attended is almost like returning to the village where I was born, coming home, being recognized. I feel a sense of high emotion."

Kenneth and Pam are devoted philanthropists who have supported a number of educational and cultural institutions including the Chinese Performing Arts in San Jose, the San Francisco-based Chinese Historical Society in America and the San Jose Tech Museum. They have two children and live in Atherton.

The Alum of the Year award goes to former students who have gained recognition for significant contributions to their field of work. Previous winners include Manny Mashouf, the founder and chairman of bebe stores inc., E-LOAN co-founder/CEO Chris Larsen, journalist Ben Fong-Torres, "Frasier" co-creator and executive producer Peter Casey, jazz and cabaret singer Wesla Whitfield, actress Annette Bening, conductor Kent Nagano, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and physician and NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle.

-- Adrianne Bee


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Last modified May 15, 2006 by University Communications