The pledge, made by Tamil Chair Inc. and the Canadian Tamil Congress, includes raising funds to support an endowment for a full-time chair position that will explore aspects of Tamil language, history and culture through research and scholarship.
“Language is an integral part of Tamil identity," says Sivan Ilangko, vice-president of the Canadian Tamil Congress and a director of Tamil Chair Inc. “This initiative will not only help the academic advancement of the language, it will help open it up and share it with the rest of the world.”
The pledge comes on the heels of two recent gifts made to support Tamil studies at U of T Scarborough. Ravi Gukathasan, a U of T alumnus and Scarborough businessman, donated $2-million in 2017, while earlier this year Brenda Beck, an adjunct professor in anthropology, donated $327,000 to support programming and digital archiving.
“This commitment to establish a chair in Tamil studies is truly inspiring,” says Professor Bruce Kidd, vice-president of U of T and principal of U of T Scarborough.
“The Tamil language, history and culture are such an important part of the human experience and the story of immigration and refugee settlement in Toronto, that we are delighted to be able to strengthen Tamil studies at UTSC in this way.”
Tamil is one of the world’s oldest and longest-surviving languages, and is spoken by more than 80 million people around the world. Tamil poetry and literature has also existed for more than 2,000 years and comprises large volumes of works. But it continues to be neglected in many universities, says Dr. Vijay Janakiraman, president of Tamil Chair Inc., which is the non-profit set up to create and support chairs in Tamil studies at top universities around the world.
“Among all the classical languages, Tamil has been largely ignored at the university level outside of Asia,” says Dr. Janakiraman, a cardiologist from Pennsylvania who initiated the Harvard Tamil Chair project.