A Gift to Iranian Studies and Beyond

To attract and retain top-flight faculty across all 10 campuses, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced a $50 million matching fund program in 2014 that aims to establish 100 new endowed faculty chairs within five years. Seizing the opportunity to support excellence, Berkeley donors have quickly stepped forward. In less than two years, five out of an anticipated eight chairs have been created at Cal, and a sixth chair is in progress.

Thanks to the Presidential Match for Endowed Chairs, which matches up to $500,000 per chair, Berkeley will benefit in a range of diverse academic areas. Each chair, which honors the interests of its donor, will provide funds, in perpetuity, for scholarly, salary, and graduate fellowship support. One of the five newly-developed chairs is the Bita Daryabari Presidential Chair in Iranian Studies, thanks to Bita Daryabari.

As Bita Daryabari grew up in Tehran, she was surrounded by Iranian literature and poetry. She treasured the days spent reading Farsi books or memorizing the writings of 13th-century poet and scholar Rumi.

To honor the love and devotion she maintains for her home, the former computer scientist and telecommunications manager-turned-humanitarian and philanthropist made a $5 million gift to Berkeley to further the study of Iranian history, languages, literature, arts, and culture.  

Though Daryabari’s parents sent her as a teen to freely pursue her education and interests in the United States, she maintains close ties, love, and a devotion to her home.

The Bita Daryabari Presidential Chair in Iranian Studies, financed by her contribution and $500,000 from the University of California Presidential Match for Endowed Chairs, will support a faculty member in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, preferably one whose teaching and research focus on ancient Iran.

Daryabari hopes her gift will help Berkeley students who are part of the Iranian diaspora learn more about their heritage.

Non-Iranian students can benefit as well, she says, adding that learning about another country’s culture and history can do more than increase knowledge. It can open hearts and minds to new understanding, respect, and peaceful solutions to problems.

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