Gene Chu ’89 Establishes Chu-Wiendl Scholarship

by Kelly Clisham
photo of gene chu in a suit and tie standing in front of a body of water

Gene Chu of Gaithersburg, Maryland, has built a life, a business and an investment portfolio since arriving in the United States from Beijing in 1986. Now he wants to use his stock market success to pay it forward with a $1 million gift, acknowledging the family and the university that helped give the businessman his start in the U.S.

The Chu-Wiendl Scholarship will provide annual funding for a native Chinese student to attend Wilkes University. The gift honors Joseph A. Wiendl, a former member of the University’s Board of Trustees, who made Chu’s education at Wilkes possible. 

Wiendl, a mining executive for Ingersoll Rand, met Chu’s father, a mining engineer for China’s Ministry of Coal. Impressed by the younger Chu’s drive to succeed, Wiendl pledged support for his studies in America. Chu remains close to the Wiendls to this day. “They treated me like family,” says Chu. “I never felt that love ever before.”

When Chu first stepped foot on the downtown Wilkes-Barre campus, he carried $300, a great sense of humor and a fierce determination to succeed. He majored in business administration and graduated from Wilkes in 1989. 

Chu earned a master’s of business administration from Baruch College before working as a controller for Ingersoll Rand and Autodesk at their locations in China. He sold cars for a few months before discovering the potential in granite countertops and incorporating Granite America with fellow alums Joe Smith ’90 and Franco Rossi Jr. ’90. Chu and Smith changed their business model and created CounterTopia in 2009.  

As Chu reflects on his journey to the Wilkes education that stands as the foundation of his success, he recalls his father’s words at the Beijing airport: “Son, now you are heading to America. The sky’s the only limit.” Chu’s generosity and desire to give back will now make the dream of higher education in America possible for a new generation of students. “I love this country,” says Chu. “This country literally changed my life.”

“This is a true story of ‘paying it forward,’” said Wilkes President Greg Cant.  “Gene is a model for other Colonels and an inspiration for us all at Wilkes. We are incredibly grateful for his generosity, which will empower future students to create their own success on campus and beyond.”

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