Announcing the Kraft Family Fund for Interfaith and Intercultural Awareness

April 21, 2005

To the Columbia Community,

Nothing is more important to the life of the University than having many forums for discussion and reflection on the ideas and issues of our time.  The classroom is the primary place in the university for the exchange of ideas, but we all know how valuable it is to have other contexts in which to express ourselves and to hear the thoughts of others.  When it comes to debating some of the most controversial, and perhaps even intractable, questions of the moment, it is all the more important that we are able to do so in environments that sustain our commitment to civil discourse, critical inquiry, and academic freedom.

To create more opportunities for students and faculty to engage in free and open discussion on a wide range of sensitive topics, I am pleased to announce that we are establishing the Kraft Family Fund for Interfaith and Intercultural Awareness.  It has been created through a generous gift from Trustee Emeritus Robert Kraft, CC ’63, and his wife, Myra.  Robert and I inaugurated the Kraft Family Fund this afternoon at a special discussion with students and faculty organized by University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis.

The Fund will be used to support innovative discussions initiated by both students and the University. These discussions will cover a wide range of contemporary and often controversial topics, including issues surrounding race, religion, politics and culture.  Programs initiated by students will build upon those currently organized by student groups based in Earl Hall and will be overseen by the Office of the University Chaplain.  University programs will be developed by a committee of distinguished faculty on behalf of the Offices of the President and Provost.  This committee includes Eric Kandel, Nobel Laureate and University Professor; Carol Gluck, George Sansom Professor of History and Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures; Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism and Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism; and Robert O'Meally, Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies.

Robert and Myra believe deeply in the University as a community committed to bringing multiple perspectives and life experiences to teaching and research.  On behalf of all of us, I want to express our gratitude to the Krafts for this very thoughtful and helpful gift. 


Lee C. Bollinger