Silicon Valley philanthropist and humanitarian Bita Daryabari has made a $1.5 million gift to UC Davis to broaden the university's Persian studies program.
The gift will establish the Bita Daryabari Presidential Chair in Persian Language and Literature and help transform UCD into a leading force in teaching, research and outreach that advances global understanding of Persian language and culture. The position will be awarded to an Iranian studies scholar whose research and teaching will focus on these areas. Funds also will support a colloquium on Iranian culture.
The UC Office of the President will provide a $500,000 matching fund through a new Endowed Faculty Leadership Initiative, which will bring the total funding to $2 million. The Endowed Faculty Leadership Initiative is a new philanthropic fund created by the University of California, the Office of the Chancellor at UCD and the UCD Foundation Board to create 25 new endowed professorship or chair positions at UCD.
"This gift will greatly enrich UC Davis' liberal arts offerings, which are a cornerstone of the education our students receive as they prepare to build their futures and participate in building a better state, nation and world," said UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi.
"Broadening our Persian studies program will allow UC Davis students new opportunities to enrich their multicultural awareness — an essential component of a UC Davis education that is focused on preparing our students to work and live in a modern, multiethnic society."
Daryabari previously supported a visiting lecturer in Iranian and Persian studies in the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program at UCD. Her vision is to help the program expand into an established Iranian studies major.
"I want this gift to bring insight to Iranian culture and literature," Daryabari said. "Persia is known for its poets and poetry, and so much more. Similar to what I have done at Stanford and at Cambridge, I wanted to support a program at UC Davis that shows the real role of Iranian studies and Persian literature and poetry, and a real appreciation of Iranian culture."
UCD is one of only three universities in the world to receive a gift from Daryabari earmarked for Persian studies. In 2008, she created the Bita Daryabari Endowment in Persian Letters at Stanford University. In 2013, she gave a $2 million endowment for the Shahnama Project at Pembroke College in Cambridge, England (a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England) for further study of the "Shahnama," or "The Book of Kings," by Abu'l-Qasim Hasan Firdausi — the emblematic text of Persian historical culture.