Thakkar Family-Dharma Civilization Foundation Endowed Chair Marks Continued Growth in South Asian Studies at UC Irvine

Thakkar Family

The UCI School of Humanities celebrates the establishment of the Thakkar Family-Dharma Civilization Foundation Presidential Chair in Vedic and Indic Civilization Studies & is working to develop additional academic opportunities for the study of Indian civilization.

On Saturday, May 9th, more than 100 people gathered to celebrate the establishment of the Thakkar Family-Dharma Civilization Foundation Presidential Chair in Vedic and Indic Civilization Studies within the School of Humanities at UC Irvine. A $1.5M gift from the Thakkar Family and Dharma Civilization Foundation (“DCF”) established the endowed chair in January.

DCF is a California-based non-profit organization that seeks to promote and enhance philanthropic giving to promote the systematic study of Indian religious traditions. The organization has been working with UCI’s Religious Studies Program since 2012 to establish this chair. Irma and Ushakant Thakkar, individual donors with a profound interest in educational philanthropy, personally contributed $1.0M toward the chair.

In addition to the creation of the Thakkar Family-Dharma Civilization Foundation Presidential Chair in Vedic and Indic Civilization Studies, DCF and UCI’s School of Humanities are working together to develop additional academic opportunities for the study of Indian civilization, with the intentions of establishing a multidisciplinary campus center for Indian studies and three additional endowed chairs in Sikh, Jain and Buddhist studies.

At the onset of the event, Dr. Manohar Shinde, founding chairman of DCF, 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. “We stand for a synthesis of the best of the East and West. It is our hope and prayer that the chair will bring the full articulation of Indic civilization,” said Dr. Shinde. 

UCI is a leader in the field of religious studies, with Jack Miles, distinguished professor of English and Religious Studies, directing the Religious Studies Program and working with DCF, colleagues in the program and the School of Humanities to establish the chair. Miles’ book God: A Biography secured him a Pulitzer Prize in 1996, and he recently served as general editor for The Norton Anthology of World Religions, a landmark work integrating the six major, living, international world religions, with the first volume centering on Hinduism, Buddhism and Daoism.

"This new endowed chair not only anchors our religious studies program by permanently securing faculty-led research and instruction in one of the world's most influential religions, but it also further supports our campus’s strength in Indian and South Asian studies, as well as in the study of the global South Asian diaspora. These are fundamental areas of expertise for UC Irvine's international preeminence as a cutting-edge site of global learning," said Georges Van Den Abbeele, dean of the School of Humanities.

Dr. Ushakant Thakkar, chairman of DCF, has played an integral role in funding and developing this chair. In addition to working with Miles, Dr. Thakkar has worked with the officers of DCF and key religious studies faculty, including Keith Nelson, emeritus professor of history, and Gerald Larson, professor emeritus of religious studies, to enhance the study of Dharma in American universities.

“This occasion is actually to celebrate all of you because you have instilled in us the culture that has made us better; and by this generous gift, you have not only bettered us but also given the opportunity of knowledge about our tradition to anyone who is thirsty for this knowledge. This effort will offer scholars and students from all over the world a unique insight into Indic civilization and Veda,” said Dr. Thakkar. “Together, we want to establish an eminent India Center, the best of them in the United States, at UC Irvine. We Indians have created over 700 temples of worship in America, now won’t you join us in making temples of education, too.”

Ambassador Venkatesan Ashok, consul general of India, San Francisco, also attended the event and said, “India’s long past has yielded a fountain of knowledge and wisdom and experience which can benefit our world today.”

Additional esteemed speakers at the event included Dr. Shiva Bajpai, founding trustee and president of DCF, and Swami Ishwarananda, director of Chinmaya Mission West.

UCI will be looking to hire a scholar in Indic religious and civilization studies with expertise in the study of Dharma traditions to assume the role as Thakkar Family-Dharma Civilization Foundation Presidential Chair in Vedic and Indic Civilization Studies.

Students at UCI can already take numerous courses in Indian and South Asian studies, including the study of the Bhagavad Gita, currently being taught by Umila Patil, lecturer in the Religious Studies Program. Additional faculty members in the School of Humanities with expertise in South Asian studies include Alka Patel, associate professor of art history, Kavita Philip, associate professor of history, and Vinayak Chaturvedi, associate professor of history.

For information on supporting the growth of South Asian studies at UCI, please contact Nicole Balsamo, senior director of development, at nbalsamo@uci.edu or 949-824-2923.

UCI School of Humanities

To learn more about the pledged Endowed Chair in Indic Religious and Civilizational Studies, please reach out to:

Annabel Adams
Associate Director of Strategic Communications
Humanities Development Office

amadams@uci.edu
949-824-8925


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