NEW YORK—Prince Karim Aga Khan IV has established the Aga Khan Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities at Brown University in honor of Vartan Gregorian, the president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, who served from 1988 to 1997 as president of Brown University. The gift of $2 million was announced following the October meeting of the Corporation of Brown University.
The university said the gift will allow Brown to bring in experts from a wide range of disciplines, including religion, history, anthropology, and comparative literature. The Aga Khan Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities 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.
For many years, Vartan Gregorian served on the Board of the Aga Khan University. During Gregorian’s tenure as president of Brown University, the Aga Khan was the first Muslim spiritual leader to give a Baccalaureate Address at a major American university. He is also the recipient of an honorary degree from Brown University, from which his son, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, graduated.
The Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam (Spiritual Leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, has emphasized the view of Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith: one that teaches compassion and tolerance and upholds the dignity of man, Allah’s noblest creation. In the Shia tradition of Islam, it is the mandate of the Imam of the time to safeguard the individual’s right to personal intellectual search and to give practical expression to the ethical vision of society that the Islamic message inspires. Addressing as chairman, the International Conference on the Example (Seerat) of the Prophet Muhammad in Karachi in 1976, the Aga Khan said that the wisdom of Allah’s final Prophet in seeking new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, provides the inspiration for Muslims to conceive a truly modern and dynamic society, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam.
“I am deeply moved and extremely grateful that the Aga Khan has chosen to make this wonderful gift to Brown University in my honor,” said Vartan Gregorian. “It is particularly meaningful to me because the Aga Khan is internationally recognized as a major activist for civilized humanity and in promoting the universal values that unite and transcend us all. And he believes that education, self-reliance, solidarity, and character are the elements which keep a community vibrant and healthy and lead to enlightenment and dignity. In addition, he supports the education of women as central to global progress. I salute him, I thank him, and I celebrate the bond that he has created with Brown University today, and with the generations of students, faculty, scholars, and others who will continue to benefit from his generosity on into the future.”
In 2005, at ceremonies held in Scotland, the Aga Khan was one of six recipients of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. Recipients are nominated by all the Carnegie organizations throughout the United States and Europe, and selected by a committee comprising representatives of six of those institutions. The award recognizes individuals and families with exceptional and sustained records of philanthropic giving and whose philanthropic efforts embody Andrew Carnegie’s deeply held belief that with wealth comes responsibility and that private wealth should serve the public good. The Aga Khan is internationally recognized as a major philanthropist who supports development projects in Uganda, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, among other countries. In addition, he founded the Aga Khan University in Pakistan, as modern, co-educational research university. It was granted its charter in 1983 as the nation’s first private, autonomous university.