Group pledges $3-million to U of T Scarborough for Chair in Tamil Studies
A group from the Tamil community in Canada and the United States has pledged $3 million to create a Chair in Tamil Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough.
The pledge, made by Tamil Chair Inc. and the Canadian Tamil Congress, includes raising funds to support an endowment for a full-time chair position that will explore aspects of Tamil language, history and culture through research and scholarship.
Two other gifts have been made recently to support Tamil studies at UTSC. Alum Ravi Gukathasan donated $2 million in 2017, while earlier this year adjunct anthropology professor Brenda Beck donated $327,000 to support programming and digital archiving.
“This commitment to establish a Chair in Tamil Studies is truly inspiring,” says Professor Bruce Kidd, vice-president of U of T and principal of U of T Scarborough.
“The Tamil language, history and culture are such an important part of the human experience and the story of immigration and refugee settlement in Toronto, that we are delighted to be able to strengthen Tamil studies at UTSC in this way.”
Tamil is one of the world’s oldest and longest-surviving languages. However, it is neglected in many universities, says Dr. Vijay Janakiraman, President of Tamil Chair Inc.
“Among all the classical languages, Tamil has been largely ignored at the university level outside of Asia. Our goal is to change all that. We want to have a chair at all of the top universities around the world because without an endowment fund to support a chair, it’s difficult for consistent research to take place.”
The timing of the pledge is ideal given the momentum created by the recent establishment of the Harvard Tamil Chair and the declaration of Tamil Heritage month in Canada. It’s also fitting that UTSC will be the Canadian location for a Chair in Tamil Studies. In addition to recent gifts made to the campus for Tamil studies, the GTA is home to the largest Tamil community outside of Asia, and Scarborough is the location of the largest annual Tamil street festival held outside of the Indian subcontinent.