At the College of William & Mary on October 24, Dr Rawya bint Saud al Busaidiya, Minister of Higher Education, signed an agreement between the Government of the Sultanate of Oman, as represented by Ministry of Higher Education, and the College of William & Mary.
The agreement formally established the Sultan Qaboos bin Said Professorship in Middle East Studies at the renowned public research university.
Dr Rawya addressed a distinguished gathering at the inaugural ceremonies.
Those in attendance included W Taylor Reveley III, President of the College of William & Mary; Hunaina al Mughairiya, Oman's Ambassador to the US; Dr Asya al Lamkiya, Cultural Attaché of Oman to the US; Alia al Busaidiya, Director of the Department of International Co-operation at the Oman Ministry of Higher Education and Dr Gene Tracy, Dean of Arts & Sciences at the College of William & Mary.
In her address, the minister noted that the Professorship at the College of William & Mary brings the number of academic chairs established by the Sultanate in countries around the globe to a total of sixteen.
In addition to the Arabian Gulf, the Sultan Qaboos Chairs are found at renowned universities in diverse countries on four continents — Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.
Eleven of His Majesty's Chairs are for studies related to the Middle East and Arab and Muslim culture; two are assigned to Information Technology; two are dedicated to environmental concerns and another is for International Relations.
Dr Rawya explained the common goal and high intent of the academic endowments: "What unites these different areas of endeavour is that they are part of Oman's highest mission to play a constructive role in the dialogue among civilisations, to promote cultural exchange and develop enduring ties of friendship and collaboration among nations for world harmony and peace."
The minister went on to say that in order to advance these noble aims, "The Sultanate of Oman wishes to offer on-going practical support for the pursuit of Middle Eastern Studies worldwide; and, in particular, to help engender deeper mutual understanding among cultures in order to promote peace and encourage co-operation among nations.
"In order to achieve this, the Sultanate of Oman seeks, among other aims, to encourage the depth and breadth of international education across the broad range of subjects encompassed by Middle East Studies. In so doing, the Sultanate hopes to strengthen the understanding of Middle East Studies in its contribution to many areas of human knowledge, including culture, history, literature, politics, religion and technology."
Dr Rawya reminded the audience of past and continuing contributions of Arab and Muslim civilisations: "The Sultanate of Oman seeks to support the development of new knowledge in each of the fields in which Arabs and Muslims of the past and present have made, or are making, major contributions."
She said that Oman also seeks to encourage the development of interdisciplinary research, study and teaching this rich field of human understanding and endeavour.
The minister underlined that the Sultanate considers the legacy of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos worthy of preservation and commemoration in perpetuity; and that the Sultanate is pleased that the College of William & Mary considers the establishment and endowment of this Professorship in Middle East Studies a fitting testimony.
She also mentioned that this Professorship is inaugurated in an auspicious year, as 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the premier university that bears the name of His Majesty — Sultan Qaboos University.
Dr Rawya recognised the College of William & Mary, which was chartered more than three hundred years ago in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary of England, and which is one of only eight public 'Ivy League' institutions of higher education in the USA, as an institution that is "rightfully proud of being both a historic institution that spans three centuries and a cutting-edge research institution for the twenty-first century.
"The College of William & Mary has adopted a global perspective and it is the intention of the College that the Professorship shall provide a major contribution to the development of knowledge and understanding in the field of Middle East Studies from a global perspective and will be a symbol of amity and partnership between the Sultanate of Oman and the College of William & Mary.
"The College of William and Mary is committed to the promotion of good scholarship, teaching, research and publication, and to the sustained cultivation of dialogue and co-operation within the wider international world of learning.
"It is in keeping with these values and traditions, and to honour the historic legacy of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, that the Sultanate of Oman has endowed this professorship of Middle East Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the College of William & Mary."
The minister concluded her address by remarking, "The establishment of the Professorship in Middle East Studies is a
stimulus for the development of further cultural ties between our two nations.
Indeed, the implementation of this Professorship represents a significant step forward in building a partnership between our two countries that will continue to benefit the international world of scholarship and diplomacy" and thanked all those involved in the preparations to establish the Chair, and especially to the University's President W Taylor Reveley III, also for making the arrangements for this momentous event.