When Ron and Shirley Hsieh suggested that their younger son, Scott, take the SAT at the same time as his older, college-bound brother, they intended it to be a simple exercise in test taking. They had no idea how it would affect the trajectory of Scott’s life. 

At just 15 years old, Scott earned a perfect SAT score. Although the Hsiehs didn’t know how they could possibly afford to send two children to college, they decided that Scott should skip his final year of high school and apply to Caltech. The Institute responded with an acceptance letter and the offer of a full scholarship. This vital support changed everything for the family. 

"It's hard to imagine what my parents and I would have done if Caltech had come back and said, "'You're admitted, but you have to pay the full fare,'" Scott says.


Today, Ron and Shirley are better off financially than they were 20 years ago. Both of their children have completed their university educations, and the Hsiehs believe it is important to give back. “At our difficult time, Caltech helped us,” Ron says. “We want to return the favor and do our share.”

Shirley agrees. “If we can help relieve the anxieties of parents who are in the same situation we were in, and also help one or two students who otherwise would have trouble financially, we are happy,” she says.

By directing their giving toward undergraduate scholarships, the Hsiehs are also advancing the Initiative for Caltech Students, a fundraising campaign that aims to improve every part of the student experience.

The Hsiehs decided to make their gift through a charitable gift annuity (CGA), which provides fixed payments for life in exchange for a gift of cash or securities to Caltech. The couple funded the CGA using Ron’s individual retirement account. 


Scott (BS ’08) is grateful for the scholarship support that enabled him to receive a “top-notch” education. He’s also grateful for the critical thinking skills he gained at Caltech, which trained him to “dig down to the roots of a problem and understand what is really true.”

After graduating from Caltech with a double major in applied physics and in business, economics, and management, Scott obtained his MS and PhD from Stanford University. He is currently a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, where he studies advanced computerized tomography (CT) technology, with the goal of making CT scanners safer and more effective at diagnosis. 

In addition to his education, Scott appreciates the relationships he built at Caltech. He met his future wife, Lydia Ng (BS ’07)—another scholarship recipient—on the first weekend he visited the Institute. The couple was married at the Athenaeum in early 2020. “Campus has a lot of special memories for both of us,” Scott says. 

Scholarship support changed everything for Scott and his parents. Now the Hsiehs’ commitment will change the future for other families.