Contact: Suzanne Trimel For immediate release
(212) 854-6579 Feb. 3, 1999
Columbia Establishes First-in-the-Nation
Professorship on Indian Political Economy
The nation‚s first endowed professorship in Indian political economy has been created at Columbia University with $2.5 million raised by prominent Indian-Americans in the New York metropolitan area. The chair will honor the distinguished internati onal economist and Columbia faculty member Jagdish Bhagwati.
The fundraising campaign, begun in 1994 and led by Columbia‚s Southern Asian Institute, recently reached the $2.5 million goal with a $500,000 donation by Sreedhar Menon, retired deputy president and former member of the board of American Express B ank Ltd. Menon, who has held senior positions at American Express Bank and Lehman Brothers over his 34-year career, currently is vice chairman of RRE Investors in Manhattan, a venture capital firm that provides private equity to early growth stage inform ation technology companies.
Mr. Menon believes the Jagdish Bhagwati Professorship of Indian Political Economy will fulfill a critical need for greater scholarly attention to the economy and politics of the world‚s largest democracy. „I feel this chair is absolutely crucial f or an Ivy League university,š he said. Additionally, Menon said the professorship secures the political economy of India as an important area of study for second and third generation Indian-Americans. „If you don‚t teach it, they will forget about it,š he said.
E. Valentine Daniel, director of the Southern Asian Institute and professor of anthropology at Columbia, said the decision to create a chair in Indian political economy highlights the importance of India in the world today. „This speaks to the vib rance of India‚s present and its significant future,š he said.
Professor Daniel noted that when Mr. Menon declined an offer to have the chair named after himself as the major patron, the India Chair Campaign Endowment, headed by Rajan Bansal, suggested instead the obvious choice at Columbia, Professor Bhagwati . The choice was approved by the University Trustees.
„This recognizes Professor Bhagwati‚s contributions as an economist,š Professor Daniel said. „It also honors his energy, effort, purpose and distinction, without which the creation of the chair would not have been possible.š
Professor Bhagwati‚s early work, „India: Planning for Industrialization,š written with Padma Desai, the Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems at Columbia, provided the intellectual underpinnings for major economic reforms in India. As one of the world‚s top trade theorists, Professor Bhagwati, the Arthur Lehman Professor of Economics, has been a prolific writer for scholarly and popular audiences alike. Born in India and educated in England, his most recent book, „A Stream of Windows : Unsettling Reflections on Trade, Immigration, and Democracy,š is a collection of his essays and lectures over the past 10 years from The New York Times, the Financial Times, the New Republic and other publications, in which he argue s that free trade is nothing short of a moral imperative and essential to solving global economic problems.
The chair will provide a close focus on the study of India‚s economic reforms, said Professor Bhagwati, who noted that the professorship is but one more example of Columbia‚s dominance in the field of South Asian studies. „It has acquired a major role at Columbia, and this chair only enhances our stature in this area,š he said. More than 125 courses on South Asian culture, history, politics, literature and art are offered at Columbia every year. The Anthropology Department has added three top sc holars whose work focuses on the region, including Professor Daniel; Nicholas Dirks, professor and chairman of anthropology; and Sherry Ortner, professor of anthropology. Columbia offers instruction in 10 South Asian languages, including Sanskrit, Hindi , Bengali, Nepali, Punjabi, Tibetan, Urdu and Tamil.
More than 1,000 donors contributed to the India chair fund, which received support from prominent members of the Indian and American business and arts communities with large donations made by the State Bank of India, Air India, the American Express Foundation and The Starr Foundation. Organizers held a series of benefits, including a reading by poet Javed Akhtar, the U.S. premiere of „In Custodyš by Indian producer Ismail Merchant, and the U.S. premiere of „The Making of Mahatmaš by the noted Indi an director Shyam Benegal. Three Indian consuls general in New York, Rajendra Rai, Gajanan Wakankar and Harsh Bhasin, encouraged the campaign and participated in it.
This document is available at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/pr/.