Princeton University will establish a new Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, funded by a $10 million gift from husband and wife Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani '74 and Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani '80 as part of the recently concluded Aspire Campaign.
The center will offer grants for students and faculty, sponsor programming related to Iran and the Persian Gulf and support new courses on the region's politics, history, culture and economy. It will bring together current faculty as well as recruit visiting scholars from a variety of disciplines.
"Our hope is to create a center striving for academic excellence in Iranian Studies," Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani said, noting that no comparable center currently exists in higher education.
The University has not yet said when exactly the center will be established.
"Now that the gift has been established, planning for the center will commence," University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said.
Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani said Iranian studies had previously been well-developed at the University but that many people lost interest after Iran's split with the United States in the late 1970s. The couple said they hope this new center will reverse the trend.
Near Eastern studies department chair Sukru Hanioglu said it has been difficult to replace Iran-focused faculty members who retire or leave Princeton.
"We went through an interim period in which we couldn't cover Iranian studies in the way that we would like to," he said.
Nevertheless, Hanioglu emphasized that his department currently handles Iranian studies but said the new center will enhance students' course choices and curriculum.
"It is inevitable that we are going to have very close relations," he explained. "Scholars will be coming from all over the world to cover different aspects of Iranian culture. They will do research but some teaching as well, which will help Iranian studies enormously."
"I am very happy; this is a wonderful, wonderful development," Hanioglu said.
Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani said the link between Princeton and Iran is very special to him.
"I believe I was the first Iranian to graduate from the college, which was a milestone for me," he said. "This was an opportunity for us to give something back to the University for the education we received there."
During his time at Princeton, Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani was a member of Ivy Club and founded the International Students Association. Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani was a member of Tower Club. They both majored in economics with certificates in Near Eastern studies.
Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani is currently chairman of the board and chief executive of RAK Petroleum, while Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani is a partner at Goldman Sachs. Bijan serves as a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and a member of the Visiting Committee to Harvard's John F. Kennedy School. Bijan also directs the Persepolis Foundation, which has donated millions of dollars to higher education as well as the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.