Divinity School Receives $2.7 Million for Buddhist Initiative

Harvard Divinity School announced a $2.7 million donation last week to support the founding of The Buddhist Ministry Initiative, a program to foster the training of Buddhist ministers at the Divinity School.

The eight-year initiative will fund lectures and the development of coursework in Buddhist ministry studies, field education, and an international conference.

The donation, from The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, is part of the foundation’s effort to increase Western engagement with Buddhist philosophy. The foundation also announced a $2.5 million donation to Stanford University for similar purposes.

Divinity School Associate Dean for Ministry Studies Dudley C. Rose said the new funds reflect the School’s commitment to expanding the breadth of its ministry programs.

“The Ho Family Foundation’s gift affords us extraordinary resources and opportunities to expand Buddhist ministry and further accomplish a central vision for ministry preparation at Harvard,” he wrote in a statement.

Divinity School Professor of Buddhist Studies Janet Gyatso said it is important to distinguish between the academic study of Buddhism at Harvard, which she said will be unaffected by the donation, and the program for training Buddhist ministers.

“We have a lot of courses in the academic study of Buddhism ... but there is also a ministry program,” she said. “The ministry program [at Harvard] has traditionally focused on teaching a learned ministry and teaching students who are not just going into ministry but are going into any socially engaged [profession].”

Gyatso said that the donation would offer ministry students expanded opportunities to receive funding for endeavors including field work in hospitals and prisons.

The program will also fund students’ international extracurricular work in the summer and support the Divinity School’s interaction with other institutions preparing Buddhist ministers.

“We are very happy to have new, significant funding from the Ho Family Foundation to undergird and expand our program to train leaders for Buddhist communities in North America,” said Divinity School Dean William A. Graham in a statement. He continued that the fund will improve “the ability for our students to gain experience in Buddhist-majority countries of Asia and for Asian Buddhist students to come to Cambridge.”

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at jworland@college.harvard.edu.

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