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Indian-American couple pledges $3.5M for Sanskrit studies

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As a direct result from an Indian-American couples $3.5 million donation, the University of Chicago has established a professorship in Sanskrit studies to foster its study of the Indian subcontinent.

Guru Ramakrishnan, photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

Guru Ramakrishnan, photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

Guru Ramakrishnan, founder and CEO of Meru Capital, and his wife, Anupama Ramakrishnan, made the pledge to the university to establish the professorship. The program will bear their namesake—Anupama and Guru Ramakrishnan Professorship in Sanskrit—and will help to facilitate a faculty member whose work focuses on the ancient classical language, a statement from the university said.

“The University of Chicago is world renowned for its excellence in the scholarship of South Asia,” Humanities Dean Martha T Roth said in a statement. “Guru and Anupama Ramakrishnan’s generosity allows us to sustain that tradition and makes possible continued rigorous study of the cultural heritage of South Asia through its literary, religious and philosophical texts.”

Gary Tubb, the university’s director of faculty at their New Delhi center, and current professor in South Asian languages and civilizations, will be the inaugural scholar of the new program’s studies, the statement further said. Sanskrit is the oldest of literary South Asian languages, and is also the longest-tenured language taught at the university, having been offered on campus since 1892. Tubb described why he felt Sanskrit has singled itself out from other South Asian languages for so long.

“Sanskrit really stands out among the world’s languages — alongside other classical languages — as being a single language that provides access to an extraordinarily broad range of texts and histories,” Tubb said. He added the origins of his interest of the language was because it provided “access to a long and rich history of human thought.” Tubb received his Ph.D. from Harvard

Gary Tubb, Faculty Director, University of Chicago Center in Delhi. Photo courtesy of the University of Chicago

Gary Tubb, Faculty Director, University of Chicago Center in Delhi. Photo courtesy of the University of Chicago

University in 1979, according to the university’s faculty page.

The Ramakrishnans, in a statement, expressed their delight in having the opportunity to fund the study.

“We are delighted to fund this chair in Sanskrit – one of the oldest languages that has given the world the Vedas, Upanishads and other exceptional works of spirituality, poetry, music and dance,” the Ramakrishnans’ statement said. “The University of Chicago’s long-term commitment to scholarship in Sanskrit made it our institution of choice to partner with on this important initiative.”

It isn’t the Ramakrishnans’ first collaboration with the university—the couple additionally funds a scholarship program for Indian students at the university’s Booth School of Business.

The Ramakrishnans’ gift is part of a much larger internal University of Chicago alumni initiative, one named “Inquiry and Impact,” which seeks to fundraise $4.5 billion through a network of 125,000 alumnus by the year 2019. The program has had a positive response, already generating $2.82 billion from 59,000 alumni to date.

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