UC Davis Receives $1.5 Million to Advance the Study of Jainism

By Karen Nikos-Rose, Associate Director, Strategic Communications 
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Mohini Jain, philanthropist, retired teacher and longtime resident of Davis, has made a $1.5 million gift to the University of California, Davis, to advance the study of Jainism, one of the world’s most revered and ancient philosophies.

The gift will establish the Mohini Jain Presidential Chair for Jain Studies in the Department of Religious Studies as part of a larger effort to position UC Davis as a leader in the study of Indian religions and the interdisciplinary field of South Asia studies broadly.

“Jainism is a very ancient and important religion and philosophy that champions truth, nonviolence and a multiplicity of viewpoints,” said Jain. “In our multicultural, global world, it is important to escape boxed-in points of view. I am hopeful the impact of the chair at UC Davis will be a broadening of minds and a renewed focus on dialogue and peace.”

The chair will be awarded to a scholar with a well-established record for creative, exceptional and interdisciplinary research on Jainism. As a member of the religious studies department, the holder of the chair will help develop curriculum in Jain studies, offer graduate courses in Jainism, pursue a vigorous research agenda, give public lectures, and contribute to the development of a religions of India and South Asia studies initiative at UC Davis by participating in community outreach.

“This gift will further diversify and strengthen our expertise in world religions and is another step toward UC Davis serving as a leader in India religions and Asia studies globally,” said Archana Venkatesan, chair of the religious studies department and associate professor of religious studies and comparative literature.

“Mohini’s commitment to this inclusive and important work grew out of a robust conversation my colleagues and I have been having with the community about the complex nature of religions and philosophies in India and the need to make a space for honest conversation and broadening of minds and acceptance. We are so grateful for Mohini’s vision and leadership,” she added.

Ralph J. Hexter, interim chancellor of UC Davis, noted that the gift will advance one of the university’s primary educational goals — increasing students’ knowledge and understanding of religions, philosophies and cultures that are different from their own.

“I am so pleased with this gift establishing the Mohini Jain Presidential Chair,” he said. “It comes at a time when understanding and cooperation among the world’s peoples have never been more important, and when keeping an open mind and searching for peaceful solutions to conflict have never been more in need. Mrs. Jain and the Jain family understand this so well, and their generous contribution will help to make these aspirations a reality.”

Mohini Jain was a research scientist at UC Davis in the 1980s and then served as a high school science teacher for 19 years, retiring in 2008. For decades, she has made giving to UC Davis a priority. In 1988, she made her first gift in honor of her husband, the late Anil K. Jain, a distinguished faculty member in electrical and computer engineering. Each year, the College of Engineering recognizes outstanding students in the field through the Anil K. Jain Memorial Fund.

The Mohini Jain Family Foundation established an endowment at the UC Davis School of Education to provide annual support for doctoral students whose research has the potential to improve public education and has made two matching gifts in response to the UC Davis Foundation’s matching fund for graduate students, in addition to many other gifts in support of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Fund and the School of Education, among others. Jain is a trustee of the UC Davis Foundation and a member of the foundation’s executive committee. She is a member of the board of advisors for the UC Davis School of Education and has been a dedicated donor to UC Davis since 1983.

The Department of Religious Studies will host a public event at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the Presentation Room at the UC Davis Welcome Center, to formally announce the Mohini Jain Presidential Chair in Jain Studies. Professor Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College and a leading scholar of South Asian literature, religion and culture, will give the keynote address.