Fact Sheet

Brief History

Robert Alonzo Welch was born February 15, 1872, in Newberry, South Carolina. In 1886, at the age of fourteen, he left South Carolina and, alone, came to Houston, Texas to establish his adult life and career.

He became interested in the oil and sulfur business during their early development and, through sound judgement, untiring energy and patience, he amassed a substantial fortune. He never married, but was devoted to his immediate family.

In 1952, at eighty years of age, he died and left an estate of approximately $25,000,000 to be used to create a charitable Foundation to support research in chemistry.

Through Mr. Welch's benevolence, The Welch Foundation currently supports a broad educational program designed to benefit mankind through chemical research.


  1. Research Grants- Currently 24 Texas universities and colleges have grants with approximately 1,500 persons involved in research under the program.
  2. University Chairs- The Foundation has participated in sponsoring 46 chairs in chemistry and related sciences.
  3. Departmental Grants- The program encourages students at 43 colleges and universities to study chemistry and to continue into graduate work, industry and other aspects of chemistry.
  4. Scholarships- The Foundation, through the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation, annually supports Texas high school graduates studying chemistry.
  5. Annual Conference on Chemical Research- Scientists from throughout the world attend a two-day Foundation-sponsored conference on research in chemistry.
  6. Welch Award in Chemistry- Each year, the Foundation recognizes a scientist who has made important chemical research contributions which have a significant, positive influence on mankind. The Welch Award consists of a certificate, a gold medallion and $500,000.
  7. Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research– This award recognizes the accomplishments of chemical scientists in Texas who are in their early careers. The Hackerman Award consists of a certificate, glass sculpture of a rising star and $100,000.
  8. Publications- Annual Report
  9. Other Program - The Foundation sponsors a summer research program for talented pre-college chemistry students.

Directors and Officers

The Board of Directors is charged with the stewardship of the Foundation. Current directors and officers are:

Charles W. Tate, Chair and Director
Carin Marcy Barth, Vice Chair and Director
Robert C. Robbins, M.D., Treasurer and Director
Ernest H. Cockrell, Secretary and Director
Wilhelmina E. (Beth) Robertson, Director
Norbert Dittrich, President

Scientific Advisory Board

The SAB reviews the merits of all research projects in the grant program and also recommends to the directors candidates for the Welch Award in Chemistry. Current members are:

Peter B. Dervan, Chair; Bren Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology

Jennifer A. Doudna, Li Ka Shing Chancellor's Chair and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Marye Anne Fox, Chancellor Emerita and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, University of California, San Diego

Joseph L. Goldstein, Regental Professor and Chairman of Molecular Genetics, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Roger D. Kornberg, Winzer Professor in Medicine, Stanford University Medical School

Richard R. Schrock, Frederick G. Keyes Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Peter G. Schultz, Chief Executive Officer and Scripps Professor of Chemistry, The Scripps Research Institute

James L. Skinner, Joseph O. and Elizabeth S. Hirschfelder Professor of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Xiaowei Zhuang, David B. Arnold Jr. Professor of Science, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and of Physics, Harvard University; Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Address Information

The Welch Foundation
Mr. Norbert Dittrich, President
5555 San Felipe, Suite 1900
Houston, Texas 77056-2730
Phone: 713.961.9884