The Chern Professorship is named for Shiing-Shen Chern, one of MSRI’s founders, and was established through the generosity of his children, May Chu and Paul Chern, and his former collaborator Jim Simons. Shiing-Shen Chern (1911–2004) was an outstanding contributor to research in differential geometry and devised the now named Chern characteristic classes in fibre spaces. He also gave proof of the famous Gauss-Bonnet formula. Chern received an M.S. degree from Tsinghua University in Beijing, and a doctor of sciences degree from the University of Hamburg (Germany). In1949, Chern accepted the chair of geometry at the University of Chicago and moved to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1960. He was elected member of the United States National Academy of Sciences a year later. After his retirement from UC Berkeley, Chern was one of the three founders of MSRI and acted as its first director (1981–84). He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1975 and the Wolf Prize in 1983.