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Founders of Panda Express Give $1.5 Million to Mizzou Honors College

Gift from MU alumni will support scholarships and programs for high-achieving students

April 28th, 2017

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Panda Charitable Foundation, led by Andrew and Peggy Cherng, University of Missouri alumni and founders, co-chairs and co-chief executive officers of the Panda Restaurant Group, Inc., has given $1.5 million to the MU Honors College. This gift will support scholarships, programs and study abroad opportunities for high-achieving students within the MU Honors College.

“Providing a top-tier education for our students is the number one priority for this university,” said MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley. “The Cherngs’ vision and generosity will enable MU to continue to pursue this priority by helping recruit, educate and develop the finest students from Missouri and around the country. These students are our future leaders, and we cannot thank the Cherngs’ enough for investing in our future through the Honors College.”

“We are delighted to contribute to inspiring better lives by supporting one of the nation’s best honors colleges as well as providing resources to educate and train our future leaders,” the Cherngs said in a statement. “The education we received from Mizzou was instrumental in preparing us for future. We hope this gift will give the Honors College additional tools to recruit the best students in the state and nation, and provide educational and career opportunities for MU’s best and brightest students.”

This gift will support several different programs within the MU Honors College, including the Cherng Summer Scholars program. This program provides $9,000 to selected undergraduate students to fund research projects or artistic endeavors during a 10-week summer course; 12 students recently were selected as the first participants in the program. Additional programs the gift will support include:

  • the CIRCA program, which is a new, problem-based learning curriculum for honors courses that promotes interdisciplinary study and leadership development
  • study abroad opportunities for students in the Netherlands and in Kuala Lumpur
  • the Cherng Conference and the Cherng Visiting Scholar program, which bring leaders who study global issues and solutions to Mizzou on an annual basis.

“The MU Honors College always has been a national leader in providing high-achieving students with opportunities to enhance and develop their strengths,” said J.D. Bowers, director of the MU Honors College. “The Cherngs’ generosity will allow the Honors College to expand our programs and create new opportunities to develop our future leaders. This gift also will allow us to continue to recruit and retain some of our state and nation’s brightest minds for years to come.”

Andrew Cherng earned a master’s degree in applied mathematics from the MU College of Arts and Science, and Peggy earned a master’s degree in computer science and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the MU College of Engineering.

Under the Cherngs’ leadership, Panda Restaurant Group, which operates the Panda Express chain of restaurants, was named one of America’s best employers by Forbes and was ranked the top Asian quick-service concept for seven consecutive years by QSR. Additionally, the Cherngs have been inducted into the National Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame.

The Cherngs are deeply committed to giving back to the communities in which Panda restaurants operate through Panda Cares Foundation, a philanthropic effort that has donated millions of dollars to non-profit organizations, schools and children’s hospitals since its founding in 1999.

Founded in 1958, the MU Honors College has a current enrollment of more than 2,550 students and nearly 11,000 alumni. The College offers almost 200 unique courses every year and boasts an active faculty of more than 160 of MU’s most accomplished scholars. The College seeks to serve a diverse group of high-achieving students from nearly every academic discipline so that they can excel in all facets of their education.

With an overall fundraising goal of $1.3 billion, the Mizzou: Our Time to Lead comprehensive campaign will secure the University of Missouri’s status among the nation’s elite public universities by focusing on three priorities:

  • Endowment Building MU’s endowment will allow the university to strengthen its ability to attract and retain stellar students and faculty.
  • Signature centers and institutes These centers and institutes will be the engine of research growth that will enhance MU’s AAU status and add to the university’s distinctiveness.
  • Campus renaissance Spurred by new and renovated facilities, Mizzou will take global leadership in education and research, which will help attract and retain students and faculty.