Ideas and Strategies from the Office of Gift Planning at Princeton University
William Ho ’87 and his husband, Bruce Stuart, value education as the foundation of their professional success and are laying a foundation for future students to be successful, too.
The couple have established a scholarship at Princeton, awarded this academic year for the first time, that currently is helping two undergraduates. They also enrolled in the 1746 Society, named for Princeton’s first year, joining others who have included Princeton in their legacy plans.
“Having the opportunity to actually set aside a scholarship and build on that, for me, was exciting, because it was a way for me to help pay back to Princeton and support people there. I still remember that I had pretty good financial aid, so I didn’t have significant debt,” Ho said. “Whether it’s Princeton or Stanford for me, or Albany or Cornell for Bruce, we’re reaching out to those places that meant a lot to us to help support the next generations of students at these institutions.”
A science-focused career
When Ho left Gainesville, Florida, for Princeton, he knew one thing: he wanted to study science. But where that fascination would lead, he wasn’t sure.
At Princeton, it turned out to be molecular biology, the hottest field for pre-med majors at the time, ignited by an immunology course where he felt he was cracking “a secret language.” Hours spent cloning proteins and manipulating DNA in the lab of Thomas Shenk, now the James A. Elkins Jr. Professor in the Life Science, Emeritus, were challenging and fulfilling.
But post-Princeton, Ho wasn’t sure where to go next. Grad school? Stay in the lab? Make patient rounds as a medical specialist? Deciding he wanted to explore medically-related research, he signed on for an M.D. Ph.D. program at Stanford and studied immunology. After his internship and residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Ho went on to an oncology fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle.
But he concluded a future in academia wasn’t for him, so Ho returned to the San Francisco Bay area to start a career in cancer drug development at Genentech, one of the first biotechnology companies. There he worked on the earliest clinical trials of several novel drugs that subsequently became approved treatments for patients with cancer. He realized that a career in drug development provided him the ideal use of both his medical and scientific training.
Ho eventually moved on from Genentech to larger roles at smaller biotech companies and now serves as chief medical officer at RAPT Therapeutics.
Reaching out to the next generation
Because of his own experience negotiating the many possibilities offered in health fields, Ho volunteers for the Center for Career Development’s Princeternship program, helping students explore what their next move after Princeton might be.
“I liked the idea of being able to talk to students and provide advice and mentorship because, when I look back to my time at Princeton, I was just exploring on my own. I had no idea about drug development as a career path,” Ho said. “Being able to talk to students who are in similar points of their life where they may be thinking about science is exciting, as I may be able to open their eyes to unfamiliar career paths.”
Pre-pandemic, Ho offered on-site mentorship and networking, where students would come for the day and meet one-on-one with up to 10 different people around his company to learn about different kinds of career possibilities from them.
Since the pandemic, the meetings are virtual. Ho says this is an easier set up. After meeting the students initially to learn their general interests, he acts as a career-path matchmaker linking the students with people in his company who could potentially offer advice, answer questions, and help the students build a network of people to reach out to as they move forward.
Ho and Stuart first met online and discovered a Princeton connection talking together on their first date. Stuart’s classmate from an Albany-area high school happened to be one of Ho’s closest friends at Princeton. “That immediately connected us,” Ho said in their New York Times wedding announcement.
A senior vice president, financial adviser, and an executive financial services director at a San Francisco office of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Stuart also has authored six books.
The couple, who live in San Francisco, married in upstate New York during the period when same-sex marriage was no longer legal in California. Stuart received an immediate dose of orange and black: a stop on their honeymoon was Ho’s 25th Reunion.
They plan to return for Reunions again this year.
In addition to education, Ho and Stuart are committed to supporting initiatives that foster diversity, equity, and inclusion — a reason both of their names are included on the scholarships they have established.
“For us, it’s been very exciting to be recognized on each other’s scholarships as a married couple from a diversity and inclusion aspect,” Stuart said, “as well as because we value education so highly. Education has been one of the reasons that we’ve had success in life, much of it derived from the fact that we have had wonderful schools and wonderful teachers. As a result of that, we want to give back.”