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University President Drew G. Faust, Professor Homi K. Bhabha, and other members of the Harvard community celebrated the inauguration of the newly renamed Mahindra Humanities Center at a gathering in University Hall yesterday.
Formerly known as the Harvard Humanities Center, the center is supported in part by a $10 million gift from Anand G. Mahindra ’77 made to the University in October 2010, the largest in Harvard’s history to be allocated exclusively to the humanities.
“Gifts of this nature are often recognized by place: a building, a title, a plaque, a hall,” Bhabha, the director of the center, said to the audience.
“To endow an institution, however, is also to make a tryst with time and to align one’s hopes and aspirations with the history of that institution,” he said.
The Mahindra Humanities Center will support a series of lectures, conferences, seminars, and graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.
This financial support aligns closely with an increased emphasis on the importance of the humanities on campus, amid doubts about its survival in the future.
“Your gift will contribute to the transformation of the humanities at Harvard because you have secured our future and provided us with the most precious of gifts: time,” Bhabha said. “Your gift of time has turned us from being hostages of the future to hosts who can throw open our doors to the rich possibilities that stand ahead of us.”
The $10 million donation, made by Mahindra in the memory of his deceased mother, honors her influence and reflects his appreciation for the full scholarship and education that he received as an undergraduate at Harvard.
“As I stand here before you today, it is out of a desire to repay this extraordinary act of generosity of this university many years ago,” he said.
Mahindra also told the audience that financial support for the humanities was inspired by a conversation with his mother, who urged him to always encourage his children no matter what choices they made.
“It was then that I realized that the nourishment and faith of a parent are probably at the heart of the survival of the liberal arts,” he said. “Indeed, this is particularly true of the humanities in emerging economies that are primarily concerned with producing material goods.”
The inauguration continued in a procession from University Hall to the steps of the Mahindra Humanities Center. Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, joined Mahindra and his family in unveiling the newly named building.
“This initiative draws together Harvard’s broad-reaching excellence and pushes it in new directions,” Smith said. “In his donation, Anand Mahindra has strengthened his experiences and is also strengthening Harvard.”
—Staff writer Barbara B. DePena can be reached at email@example.com.
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