On the final day of Commencement, President William A. Covino stood on stage at the University Athletic Stadium and made the kind of announcement no other president before him had made.
“I’m proud to announce that the College of Health and Human Services has been renamed the Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services,” Covino said to an audience of thousands last June.
The gathering of soon-to-be graduates, friends, family, faculty and staff erupted in applause.
Several officials, including Congressman Xavier Becerra, California Treasurer John Chiang, Congresswoman Judy Chu and Chinese Counsel General Liu Jian, were also in the audience.
That announcement marked the start of a new era in giving for the University. The Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services is now the first named college at Cal State LA. The naming recognizes the largest gift in the University’s history.
“That gift will enable Cal State LA to realize many dreams, including constructing the Rongxiang Xu Bioscience Innovation Center, the building that will house LA BioSpace,” Cal State LA Vice President Jose A. Gomez announced at the groundbreaking for the center.
The gift from the National Rongxiang Xu Foundation commemorates the extraordinary contributions of Dr. Rongxiang Xu, a scientist, surgeon, inventor and humanitarian, who passed away in 2015. Xu’s breakthroughs helped alleviate the pain and improve the outcomes of countless burn patients.
“To heal patients and eliminate their suffering was my father’s greatest dream,” says Kevin Xu, a business leader and entrepreneur who is the son of Xu. “Through this commitment, I want a new generation of professionals to inherit my father’s spirit of saving others from suffering and pain.”
Kevin Xu and his mother, Dr. Li, were awarded the Presidential Medallion at the 2016 Commencement.
Xu grew up in a poor family in rural China. When he was 3 years old, he was so malnourished he almost died, according to his biography. A village cadre helped save Xu’s life by sharing his ration.
That early experience fueled Xu’s desire to help others. After high school he studied medicine at the Qingdao Medical College in China.
“He didn’t have a lot of resources and opportunities to become a success,” says Kevin Xu. “Eventually the people who believed in him provided him the opportunity and the platform [to succeed].”
After witnessing the pain and scarring burn patients endured, Xu set out to discover a less painful treatment approach. Through innovative research in tissue repair, Xu developed a burn therapy for patients that restores the structure and function of the skin, resulting in less pain, illness and death.
“My father spent every day of his life dedicated to helping others,” recalls Kevin Xu, who refers to his father as a true hero.
In 1987, Xu’s research led to the founding of MEBO International, which is the operational base of Moist Exposed Burn Ointment, the world-renowned regenerative medical technology for burns, wounds and ulcers. Today, more than 200,000 doctors around the world use MEBO technologies and products.
Three U.S. presidents—Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush—have recognized Xu’s groundbreaking achievements. USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology will be home to the Rongxiang Xu Center for Regenerative Life Science. Harvard Medical School houses the Rongxiang Xu, M.D., Center of Regenerative Therapeutics within Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The National Rongxiang Xu Foundation is also a major supporter of the Rongxiang Xu Bioscience Innovation Center at Cal State LA. The groundbreaking for the new center was held on Nov. 18.
Hundreds attended the ceremony, including several industry leaders, as well as elected officials Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Chu, Chiang, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who helped secure the first major grant for the bioscience incubator. Wilfred Marshall of the Economic Development Administration, which provided a grant to the incubator, was also present.
“LA BioSpace will give our students and faculty the chance to work with entrepreneurs to put Los Angeles at the forefront of the bioscience industry,” says Vice President Gomez, who chairs the LA BioSpace Advisory Board. “This will create jobs and new opportunities for the communities we serve.”
For Kevin Xu, the gathering marked the birth of a “bioscience ecosystem,” a collective of organizations and institutions committed to building a flourishing industry.
“This…is an ecosystem that will be able to work together, and that way we can truly turn around the community,” Kevin Xu says.
The center will support pioneering research and innovation. Inside the two-story, nearly 21,000-square-foot building, students, faculty and local entrepreneurs will work together, sharing their expertise and knowledge.
The Rongxiang Xu Bioscience Innovation Center will become a resource for scientists and innovators, and it will help Cal State LA become a leader in the region’s growing bioscience industry. The center, along with the newly named college, will continue Xu’s legacy.
The spirit of a hero never dies, Kevin Xu says: “Their spirit is passed down as a heritage that transforms generation after generation.”
Gwendolyn Gabrielle is a graduate student majoring in television, film and theatre with a focus in dramatic writing.
Photo 1: Photo of the Downtown LA campus. Photo 2: From Left: Dean of the College of Professional and Global Education Eric Bullard, State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, President William A. Covino, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, and Assemblyman Ed Chau participate in the Sept.19 ribbon-cutting ceremony at Cal State LA Downtown.