BUENA PARK, CA - A signing ceremony for the establishment of three endowed chairs– Shri Parshvanath Presidential Chair in Jain Studies, Dhan Kaur Sahota Presidential Chair in Sikh Studies and Swami Vivekananda-DCF (Dharma Civilization Foundation) Presidential Chair in Modern India Studies at the...
Nicole Balsamo, Senior Director of Development, UCI School of Humanities, a key coordinator between the University and the community, while introducing Dean Abbeele, outlined progress and accomplishments and his vision for the development of a multidisciplinary center in South Asian Studies at UCI.She also recognized the tireless efforts of the community, in particular Dr. Nitin Shah, Dr. Harvinder Sahota, Dr. Jasvant Modi, Rajesh Shah, Yogesh Shah, Dr. Manohar Shinde, and others, which had led to the successful fruition of the initiative to establish these chairs.
Dr. Nitin Shah, the event moderator and a key person in leading the effort for the establishments of the chairs, began his remarks with a quote by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.These endowed chairs will prepare those citizens who will make that change,” said Dr. Shah. In addition to partnering with UCI, Dr. Shah also spoke about the ongoing efforts to promote and support Jain and Sikh studies at Claremont School of Theology and at Loyola Marymount University. He also mentioned about the Ahimsa Center established in 2004 at Cal Poly Pomona under the direction of Dr. Tara Sethia and the opportunities to travel and study Jainism in India partly funded by the International School for Jain Studies (ISJS). Dr. Shah commented that the initiative to establish a chair in Jain Studies had the support of prominent Jain organizations including the Jain Center of Southern California, the Jain Center of Los Angeles and Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA).
Virendra Shah, President JCSC while welcoming guests made an observation that recently published books on world religions had mentioned Jainism and Sikhism only in the footnotes. “Today’s historical event will have a profound impact on developing academic opportunities for the study and research of Indian religions which are not widely known or understood outside of India,” said Shah.
Mahesh Wadher West Coast Regional Vice President of Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA), an umbrella organization representing 71 Jain Centers in US and Canada, mentioned that the teaching of Jain philosophies and its principles – Ahimsa (non-violence), Aparigrah (non-possessiveness) and Anekantvad (Non-absolutism, Pluralistic perspective) will be of great benefit in resolving world conflicts.
Dr. Manohar Shinde, founding chairman of DCF, spoke in support of establishing the Swami Vivekananda-DCF Chair in Modern India Studies. He explained the mission and academic vision of DCF and how UCI, as the first public university to establish a partnership with the organization, plays a special role. He also mentioned about Professorships at University of Southern California and $ 4.4 million pledge to Graduate Theological Union by DCF. “Today we have gathered here to celebrate the partial fulfillment of the grand vision of creating an academic center of excellence,” Shinde said.
The donors, Dr. Jasvant Modi, Rajesh Shah and Dr. Harvinder Sahota offered their gratitude for the opportunity to support the faculty-led research and instructions for Jain and Sikh studies. Each endowed chair is funded with $2 million of which the donors contribute $1.5million and $500,000 is provided by UC President as a matching donation. For the Sikh Studies Chair, Dr. Harvinder and Asha Sahota pledged $ 1.5 million For Shri Parshvanath Presidential Chair in Jain Studies Dr. Jasvant and Meera Modi pledged $750,000 and Rajesh and Neeta Shah $250,000 and the balance of $ 500,000 will be raised from the community. Since UCI required commitment of $1.5 million, the Modi and Shah Family very graciously signed a guarantee for the whole amount. An endowed chair is a fund that provides resources to recruit, retain, and reward the finest scholars. The annual interest in the endowment provides resources in perpetuity for faculty salary, teaching, research and related activities.