At a recent gathering of Tibetan experts in Alfred Lerner Hall, Gray Tuttle, assistant professor of Tibetan studies in Columbia's department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALAC), was inaugurated as the Leila Hadley Luce Chair in Modern Tibetan Studies. The occasion marked a double first: the chair is the first of its kind to be established at a Western university, and Tuttle is the first to hold the new title.
The chair was made possible by a $3 million award from the Henry Luce Foundation. Located in the EALAC Department, the chair was established to emphasize the study of modern Tibet in relation to its historical roots.
Following Tuttle's inaugural address, Robert Thurman of Columbia led a panel discussion on "The Future of Modern Tibet Studies." Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies -- also the first endowed chair of its kind in the United States.
"My chair is in classical Tibetan studies," said Thurman. "Gray Tuttle, by contrast, focuses on the role played by Tibet in the formation of modern China. His approach fits with the trend of seeing China as more of a melting pot than traditional studies suggest."
Thurman added that the creation of a second endowed chair brings Columbia closer to its goal of erecting a "premier institute for an integrated study of Tibet."