Silicon Valley philanthropist and humanitarian Bita Daryabari has made a $1.5 million gift to the University of California, Davis, to broaden the university’s Persian studies program.
The gift will establish the Bita Daryabari Presidential Chair in Persian Language and Literature and help transform UC Davis into a leading force in teaching, research and outreach that advances global understanding of Persian language and culture. The UC Davis Presidential Chair in Persian Language and Literature position will be awarded to an Iranian studies scholar whose research and teaching will focus on these areas. Funds will also support a colloquium on Iranian culture.
The UC Office of the President will provide a $500,000 matching fund through a new Endowed Faculty Leadership Initiative, which will bring the total funding for the Presidential Chair in Persian Language and Literature to $2 million. The Endowed Faculty Leadership Initiative is a new philanthropic fund created by the University of California, the Office of the Chancellor at UC Davis, and the UC Davis Foundation Board to create 25 new endowed professorship or chair positions at UC Davis.
“This gift will greatly enrich UC Davis’ liberal arts offerings, which are a cornerstone of the education our students receive as they prepare to build their futures and participate in building a better state, nation and world,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “Broadening our Persian studies program will allow UC Davis students new opportunities to enrich their multicultural awareness — an essential component of a UC Davis education that is focused on preparing our students to work and live in a modern, multiethnic society.”
Daryabari previously supported a visiting lecturer in Iranian and Persian studies in the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program at UC Davis. Her vision is to help the program expand into an established Iranian studies major.
“I want this gift to bring insight to Iranian culture and literature,” Daryabari said. “Persia is known for its poets and poetry, and so much more. Similar to what I have done at Stanford and at Cambridge, I wanted to support a program at UC Davis that shows the real role of Iranian studies and Persian literature and poetry, and a real appreciation of Iranian culture.”
UC Davis is one of only three universities in the world to receive a gift from Daryabari earmarked for Persian studies. In 2008 she created the Bita Daryabari Endowment in Persian Letters at Stanford University; and, in 2013, she gave a $2 million endowment for the Shahnama Project at Pembroke College in Cambridge, England (a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England) for further study of the “Shahnama,” or “The Book of Kings,” by Abu'l-Qasim Hasan Firdausi — the emblematic text of Persian historical culture.
“The Bita Daryabari gift contributes a foundational pillar to the continued development of Iranian and Persian studies within the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program at UC Davis,” said Suad Joseph, distinguished professor of anthropology, and gender, sexuality and women’s studies at UC Davis. “This establishment of an endowed chair for modern Persian language and literature enables our Middle East/South Asia Studies Program to expand and deepen its curricular and research offerings to our students and community on the rich and unique civilizational contributions of Iran and Persia. The value added to the program and constituencies is priceless.”
Daryabari holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and master’s degree in telecommunication management from Golden Gate University. She has had a long-standing passion for increasing knowledge of her native Iranian culture and improving the lives of people from Iran and beyond. She founded Pars Equality Center in 2010 to support the full integration of people of Persian origin in the United States and advocate for their perspectives in American society. Daryabari is also invested in broadening exposure to the literature, poetry and prose of her native Iran, through various university endowments. She is involved with a number of international charitable organizations working to improve education and women’s rights worldwide. She has received the World Affairs Council Honoree of the Year Award (2015), the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2012), the United Nations Appreciation Award for Outstanding Leadership, Commitment and Support of the U.N. and Achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (2011), PAAIA Philanthropist of the Year Award (2010), and Golden Gate University’s Alumni of the Year Award (2008).