Chapel Hill's Ping Fu among Obama guests at State of the Union speech

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Ping Fu, Chapel Hill resident and co-founder of Geomagic, a technology company based in Research Triangle Park, will be a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama at tonight’s State of the Union speech.

You can read the 23-member list here: [76kb, Word doc]  firstladyguestlist

While Geomagic is a highly successful company—from 2000 to 2005, its annual revenue grew to $30 million— Fu’s personal story is even more remarkable. According to Inc. magazine, which named her 2005’s Entrepreneur of the Year,

“Ping attended no school at all between the ages of 7 and 18. Instead of San Francisco, Berkeley, and the Ivy League, she was educated through torture, exile, and imprisonment in her native China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.”

According to NPR, which broadcast a profile of her in 2006, Fu, once a journalist, spent two years investigating rumors that China's one-child policy was prompting couples to kill their baby girls. Fu's student project got picked up by the People's Daily. Embarrassed, party officials sentenced Fu to prison.

"I was preparing to die," NPR quoted Fu as saying of that time, "and then I was given a chance to live."

Read more about the company and Fu below.

Geomagic specializes in 3D software for creating digital models of physical objects. The software, according to the company’s Web site, is also used in the dental and medical markets to create customized restorations, appliances, prosthetics and treatment plans that help improve patient care. Some of the companies using Geomagic software include Ford, Harley-Davidson, Richard Childress Racing, Timberland, Fisher Price, Pratt & Whitney, NASA, Alcoa Howmet, Danaher and Invisalign.

The company won the prestigious Tibbetts Award from the U.S. Small Business Technology Council.

Before co-founding Geomagic, Fu was director of visualization at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, where she started and managed the Mosaic software project that led to Netscape and Internet Explorer.

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