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Friday, September 24, 2021

UC Davis hosts guest lecturer to celebrate new $1.5 million endowed chair in Jain Studies

KARIN HIGGINS / UC DAVIS

Davis resident Mohini Jain sponsors chair on ancient Indian religion

To celebrate the creation of a new endowed chair in Jain studies at UC Davis, Middlebury Collect President Laurie Patton gave a presentation to a standing-room-only crowd on Feb. 21.

The Mohini Jain Presidential Chair for Jain Studies is backed by a $1.5 million endowment from Davis resident Mohini Jain. The chair will be housed in the Religious Studies Department.

“This evening’s lecture by President Patton honors Mrs. Mohini Jain’s long history of giving to UC Davis and the commitment to education and principles of robust dialogue [that are] a part of the university’s academic initiative,” said Archana Venkatesan, the chair of the Religious Studies Department. “[…] It has been truly a pleasure, a privilege, to know Mohini as a friend [and] a mentor.”

Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter gave opening remarks before Patton took the stage. Hexter thanked Jain for her donation to the university and explained the chief goal of the new position.

“This evening’s event is so special [because] it allows us to honor Mrs. Mohini Jain, a long-time and treasured friend of UC Davis,” Hexter said. “[…] Mohini and her family have endowed a presidential chair at UC Davis. This chair is dedicated to the study of Jainism in the religious studies department, and the hope is the chair will serve as an interdisciplinary leader on campus in the study of Indian religions and the religions of Southeast Asia more broadly.”

According to a statement by Jain to UC Davis Dateline, she is most excited to see the societal impact that this new chair will bring to the university.

“Jainism is a very ancient and important religion and philosophy that champions truth, nonviolence and a multiplicity of viewpoints,” Jain said. “In our multicultural, global world, it is important to escape boxed-in points of view. I am hopeful the impact of the chair at UC Davis will be a broadening of minds and a renewed focus on dialogue and peace.”

Susan Kaiser, vice dean of humanities, arts and cultural studies in the College of Letters and Sciences, highlighted the great educational value that the new chair will bring.

“The Jain chair will be used to do some wonderful things at UC Davis,” Kaiser said. “[…] The endowed chair will promote a robust research profile with peer-reviewed publications and books and articles, contributing to an international reputation in Jain studies […] The chair will greatly enhance the religious studies department […] making this department one of the truly accomplished religious studies departments in the nation.”

Patton then took to the stage to present a roughly 50 minute lecture.

“I just have to say: standing room only in a lecture on the early Indian religions,” Patton said. “Something must be going right with the world. It’s delightful to be here at UC Davis and to celebrate this new chair in Jain studies.”

The moral standing of this new chair is very important to Patton.

“The idea of a chair to explore the complexity of early Indian religions, with a focus [on] Jainism, and with a focus on how they can make peace in the world today, is a dream come true,” Patton said. “There are very few people like you who exist in the world and I really mean that.”

Jain said that she chose to donate to the religious studies department because the humanities at times can be undervalued.

I also always have felt that the department of religious studies, humanities, have been undervalued,” Jain said. “For what they offer, somehow people don’t recognize always. Whenever the donations go and chair establishments, they go to engineering and many other departments that are more visible, maybe with immediate gains.”

Written by: Kenton Goldsby — campus@theaggie.org

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