The Corporation formally accepted a $2 million donation at its October meeting from Prince Karim Aga Khan IV P’95 to fund a visiting professor of Islamic humanities. The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili branch of Islam, has a “long-standing connection” to Brown, said Vice President for International Affairs Matthew Gutmann.
His son, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, graduated from the University in 1995. Karim Aga Khan received an honorary degree from Brown in 1996, according to a May 1996 University press release.
The Aga Khan gave the gift in honor of former University president Vartan Gregorian.
“Having the Aga Khan Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities means that we can have a really prominent figure and expert in these areas at a time when the more knowledge about the Muslim world and Islam, the better,” Gutmann said.
Gutmann said the University hopes to have someone in the post for one or both semesters of next school year. The position is intended to continue for many years into the future, he said, adding that the position will allow the University to bring in experts from a wide range of disciplines, including religion, history, anthropology and comparative literature. The visiting professor will come from any of the various disciplines depending on who is thought to be the best for the job in a given year, and will be affiliated with the Cogut Center for Humanities, Gutmann said.
Associate Professor of History Vazira Zamindar is heading the search committee to find the first Aga Khan Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities. She said the search committee includes two other faculty members, Assistant Professor of Anthropology Sherine Hamdy and Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Middle East Studies Melani Cammett.
“Together we have generated a list of names of people who work in this field or might have an interest in this position,” Zamindar said about the search process thus far. She said she plans to “reach out to them and, through them, get the word out about the new position.”