Irvine, Calif., Aug. 24, 2017 – The University of California, Irvine has received a $1.5 million grant from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute to establish the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair in Art History & Archaeology of Ancient Iran. Additional funding was provided by the UC Presidential Match for Endowed Chairs program. The holder of the $2 million chair in the Department of Art History will collaborate with UCI’s Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies & Culture.
“We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Mir-Djalali and Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute for this important endowed chair position,” said Georges Van Den Abbeele, dean of the School of Humanities. “With this support, UCI is poised to attract scholars and students from around the world who seek a diverse range of scholarly opportunities in both ancient and modern Iranian and Persian studies. Donors who endow chairs not only contribute to our scholarly excellence today, but also ensure the university’s continued preeminence in specific areas of study. In this case, the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair builds upon our internationally recognized expertise in Persian studies and positions us well to become the leading center in this strategically important area of scholarly study.”
Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali, Ph.D., is the founder, chair and president of Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, a private foundation that supports cultural and educational activities and helps nurture a new generation of educators to preserve the transmission and instruction of Persian language and culture. Founded in 2000, the foundation has awarded millions of dollars in grants for the strengthening or establishment of academic Persian programs at some of the most esteemed universities in the United States and throughout the world. Though Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute has supported several Persian-related initiatives at UCI, this new grant – which comes from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Fund, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation – marks its first campus endowment.
“We are delighted to endow a new chair specializing in ancient Iran at the UCI School of Humanities,” Mir-Djalali said. “Persian culture and history stretches back 3,500 years. Understanding and appreciating this rich and influential heritage is essential to developing more effective communication in today’s sometimes antagonistic relationships. It is a great honor to partner with the University of California, Irvine, relying on its excellence in academic strength and knowing that this endowment will benefit generations of faculty and students pursuing Persian and Iranian studies.”
Cécile Whiting, UCI chair and professor of art history, concurred: “Appointing a scholar specializing in the art of ancient Iran will strengthen the Department of Art History’s course offerings in the ancient world and enable students to consider the complex exchange of ideas in the Near East extending west toward the Mediterranean world and east into India. This new scholar will enhance the robust study of the ancient world pursued by a number of departments in the School of Humanities, including history, classics, and Persian and Iranian studies.”
The Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair in Art History & Archaeology of Ancient Iran will teach and conduct extensive research on any or all of the three dynasties of the ancient Persian world: Achaemenid, Arsacid and Sasanian (550 B.C. to A.D. 650).
Founded in 2009, UCI’s Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies & Culture is a hub for interdisciplinary research projects that bridge the arts, humanities, engineering, medicine and the sciences with Persian studies. Since its inception, the center has hosted numerous conferences on the Iranian world; created research clusters uniting scholars on the study of the Tehran Project, alternative music, the Digital Archive of Middle Persian Inscriptions, and Sasanika (Late Antique Iran Project); and established an online, peer-reviewed journal, the Digital Archive of Brief Notes & Iran Review, or DABIR. UCI students can minor in Persian studies and take courses about both ancient and modern Iran.
“The Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair in Art History & Archaeology of Ancient Iran will position the Jordan Center as a national leader in both modern and ancient Iran and secure our footing for continued excellence in Persian and Iranian studies,” said history professor Touraj Daryaee, center director and Maseeh Chair in Persian Studies & Culture. “We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Mir-Djalali and Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute for their investment in the work we do, and I personally look forward to collaborating with the future chair holder.”
Recruitment for the inaugural appointment is planned for the coming academic year.
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.
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