A white marble statue of 11th century Persian poet, philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Omar Khayyám now sits outside of the College of International Studies, a tangible expression of the University of OU's commitment to Persian and Iranian studies.
The statue was unveiled Wednesday afternoon in Norman during a ceremony where OU President David Boren also announced the creation of a Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies. Both the statue and the center were made possible by Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh, who made a $4 million gift to the College of International Studies.
"The University of Oklahoma is deeply grateful to the Farzaneh family for this generous gift, which places OU at the forefront in Iranian and Middle Eastern Studies," Boren said. "It is believed to be the largest gift in the university's history from those who came to OU as international students. The Farzaneh's are active leaders in the OU family."
Boren said he will recommend the OU Board of Regents name the hall and center where the College of International Studies is housed in honor of the Farzaneh family. The Farzaneh family has donated more than $8 million to the university.
According to a release from OU, the new center will "provide opportunities for students to develop a better cultural understanding, appreciation and awareness of the United States, Iran and the Middle East." The university will create an academic major in Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies.
The Farzaneh brothers' gift will fund scholarships for both Iranian students and student studying Persian; three endowed professorships; an endowed lectureship; a prize for Iranian Literature; a Persian artwork fund and an endowed Persian book collection.
The sculpture of Khayyám was carved by Professor Hossein Fakhimi, who earned a Ph.D from Madrid Fine Arts. He is a founder of the Iranian Organizations of Scientific and Industrial research, and studied Khayyám for two years before beginning the sculpture because he "wanted to capture the varying aspects of Khayyám's character."
The seven-foot tall sculpture is valued at $500,000 and cost $14,000 to transport from Iran Its stone originates from the Iranian city of Azna. In the sculpture, Khayyám is depicted with a globe that contains constellations, representing his contributions to astronomy; numbers representing his developments in binomial theorems and Algebra; and a book representing his famous poetry. According to OU, "scholars believe he wrote about 1,000 four-line verses of poetry known as rubaiyat, which have been translated into dozens of languages."