James WeiThe School of Engineering and Applied Science has named its visiting professorship in entrepreneurship in honor of former dean James Wei on the occasion of Wei’s retirement.

Established in 2007 with support from a small group of alumni, the professorship will now be known as the James Wei Visiting Professorship in Entrepreneurship. The professorship is part of the activities of Princeton’s Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education.

“As dean, Jim had a vision that students should learn about taking ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace-that we should be teaching entrepreneurship,” said H. Vincent Poor, dean of engineering. “His initiatives in this area – and specifically his decision to bring practicing entrepreneurs to campus – continue to have enormous impact on our students and on Princeton more generally.”

Among Wei’s accomplishments was recruiting entrepreneur and former U.S. Congressman Ed Zschau ’61 to teach what has become a hugely popular and influential course called “High-Tech Entrepreneurship.” Zschau, building on courses he taught at Stanford University and the Harvard University School of Business, has taught his course for 12 years and many alumni of it have gone on to create successful businesses.

Video link“For every entrepreneurial endeavor you need a big idea and then someone who has the vision to recognize its potential to make it happen,” Zschau said. “In this case the big idea was offering entrepreneurship courses and programs. The individual who recognized the potential was Jim Wei.”

Wei transferred to emeritus status in February after 19 years at Princeton. He served as dean of engineering from 1991 to 2002 and is credited with strengthening the school, raising its profile and more deeply integrating it with the liberal arts at Princeton.

Ely Dahan, assistant professor of marketing at the Anderson School at University of California-Los Angeles, will serve as the Wei Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship when he comes to Princeton for the spring 2011 semester. Previous holders of the visiting position have been Julian Lange of Babson College, John Danner of the University of California-Berkely and Gordon Bloom, who taught at both Stanford and Harvard universities.