The Florida International University (FIU) has established the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship of Jain Studies.
Said to be the first professorship of its kind in the western world, the Jain Education and Research Foundation donated $600,000 to establish the endowed professorship in the Department of Religious Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, the university said in a statement today.
Nathan Katz, FIU professor who specialises in the religions of India, was named the first Bhagwan Mahavir Professor at an installation ceremony on April 16.
"Dr Katz is a pioneer in the field of Indo-Judaic Studies and has been involved in the Jewish-Hindu dialogue for decades, making him a great candidate for this professorship" said Kenneth G Furton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
The endowment is part of a larger initiative by the Jain community to establish an academic education centre for Jain studies and research at FIU.
The proposed Bhagwan Mahavir Interdisciplinary Centre for Religious Pluralism would offer courses in Jainism, provide research opportunities and collaborate with universities throughout the world, the university said.
"The centre will link FIU with other universities globally in a number of projects, including study programmes in India, working with secondary schools and community organisations on religious pluralism, summer institutes, faculty and student exchanges, and lecture series, among other projects," Professor Katz said.
The endeavour is being led by Dipak C Jain, renowned scholar and chairman of the Jain Education and Research Foundation. "FIU's faculty shows excellence in the dissemination and application of knowledge," said Samani Charitra Prajna. "The diverse ethnic student body has freedom of thought and expression. This professorship will open new horizons and be a truly worlds ahead initiative for FIU."
Founded in 1965 and Miami's only public research university, the FIU has more than 38,000 students,and has been classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a "High Research Activity University".