UCLA has received a commitment of $4.1 million to the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences — the largest gift in the department’s history — from adjunct professor Lawrence “Larry” Harding Jr.

In honor of Harding’s late father, the gift will establish the Lawrence Harding Endowed Chair. The chair will be held by a professor with expertise in oceanography — the study of the physical, chemical and biological features of the ocean, including its ancient history, present condition and future, and its critical role in sustaining life on Earth.

To augment the impact of Harding’s generous commitment, the UCLA College Division of Physical Sciences has established a $1 million endowed matching fund that will provide additional resources for the chair holder, including funds for postdoctoral researchers and graduate students.

“I want to express my profound gratitude to Professor Harding for his tremendous generosity,” said Miguel García-Garibay, dean of the UCLA College’s physical sciences division, which includes the atmospheric and oceanic sciences department. “Endowed chairs at this level allow us to grow our world-class science faculty and to keep pushing the boundaries of knowledge.”

Larry Harding’s father, Lawrence “Wayne” Harding, was a UCLA alumnus and a member of the Bruin baseball team who died in 2018. 

“This gift will enable us to attract a new, top-tier faculty member and to bolster much-needed research about our oceans, which are a critical component of our coastal environment and our changing planet,” said Suzanne Paulson, who was chair of the department through June 2023. “This particular gift is made even more special by the fact that it comes from a longstanding member of our oceanography faculty.”

Larry Harding came to UCLA as a visiting scholar in 2011 and was appointed adjunct professor in 2012. His research interests include biological oceanography, the physiology and ecology of marine phytoplankton, aircraft and satellite remote sensing of marine environments, and the effects of climate on estuaries.

“It is very satisfying to know that my gift will have a substantial and lasting impact on oceanography research and education in such an accomplished department,” Harding said. “I have had a long and rewarding career in this field and am pleased to be able to support the critically important work of future generations.

“I am also proud to honor my dad, who helped me throughout my life and career, making it possible for me to pursue the science I love. Dad was a great Bruin!”

Harding’s previous philanthropic giving to the department includes a 2018 donation of $100,000 to support graduate and undergraduate students. He is also a generous annual supporter of the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Chair’s Discretionary Fund.

Before joining UCLA, Harding was program director of biological oceanography at the National Science Foundation from 2008 to 2010. Prior to that, he was a scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Chesapeake Bay Institute and a research professor at Horn Point Laboratory, part of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science, for more than 30 years.