Alum Endows Arabic Language Position
The money, given by NELC alum Gordon Gray Jr. ’65, will provide a steady source of funding to a department that has been strapped for resources because of its growing popularity over the past decade and recent interest sparked by the terrorist attacks.
Gray said he hopes the donation will encourage the study of the Arabic language at Harvard, especially among undergraduates.
“This had a lot to do with Sept. 11. It occurred to me at the time that there is a paucity of institutions to meet interest. I want to promote a wider and better understanding of Middle Eastern cultures,” Gray said.
According to Gray, the endowment will not create a new position, but will instead provide funding for an existing preceptorship. In the past, the department has had to renew funding for the position with each new preceptor that is hired.
The University has been responsive and generous in funding extra TFs for Arabic instruction, according to Professor of the Practice of Arabic William Granara, but the new funds were still badly needed.
Student enrollment in Arabic has been increasing steadily over the past decade, forcing the department to increase class size and hire graduate students to teach beginning Arabic, which is taught entirely in section.
“Using so many graduate students is not the way to do business,” Granara said.
Although interest in Arabic has increased, enrollment in Harvard’s introductory Arabic course, Arabic A: “Elementary Arabic,” has remained steady.
Granara suspects that because the year-long class started only a day after Sept. 11, most students who took an interest in Arabic because of the attacks were unable to sign up in time.
This spring, however, he has received “dozens” of e-mails and phone calls from students asking to start Arabic mid-year.
“We don’t have the resources to do that,” he said. “We have been stretched to the limit.”
In addition to his undergraduate concentration at Harvard, Gray pursued an advanced degree in Middle Eastern languages from Columbia University, where he has also donated another $1.5 million for Arabic instruction.
Gordon Gray Jr. works in New York as an investor. He sponsored the Harvard Writing Program, established in 1995 to improve the expository writing program and the Maggie M. Gordon Gray Travelling Fellowship.