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$2-Million Gift to UC Irvine Will Fund Center for Persian Studies and Culture

April 22, 2005|Jennifer Delson | Times Staff Writer

A center for Persian studies and culture will be established at UC Irvine, thanks to a $2-million endowment from a foundation begun by an Orange County investments manager, university officials announced Thursday.

The Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture will become one of the few in the country to focus on the culture of Iranians and Persia, the country that predated modern Iran, UCI officials said.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday April 23, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Persian studies -- An article in Friday's California section about UC Irvine establishing a Persian studies program said the university planned to eventually offer a bachelor's degree in Persian studies. It has no such plans.

Beginning this fall, the center, to be administered by the School of Humanities, will sponsor research grants, lectures and workshops and offer classes in Persian studies and language.

Funding comes from the Massiah Foundation, created by Fariborz Maseeh, who created and then sold a business that manufactured computer chips for pacemakers and aircraft landing gear, among other apparatus.

"It came to me that not only the community of people of Persian descent can benefit, but also we as a nation will benefit," said Maseeh, 45, a UCI Foundation trustee. "We need more understanding of the region in today's interdependent world."

The center is named after a Presbyterian missionary who served in Iran from 1898 to 1941 and founded the American College of Tehran, renamed Alborz College of Tehran in the 1930s.

Maseeh, who came to the United States in 1977 from Iran, went to a high school founded by Jordan.

The gift will fund a department chairman and two professors, one for humanities and another for Persian Performing Arts. Harvard University, Princeton University and the University of Maryland have Persian studies programs, Maseeh said.

Persian culture is hardly new to Irvine, which hosts an annual Persian festival. Census figures show 101,000 Iranians living in the five-county area, but community leaders say the number is closer to 600,000, the largest community of Iranians outside Iran. Most came after the 1979 revolution.

The news of the donation comes about three weeks after Paul Merage, another Iranian immigrant, pledged $30 million to UC Irvine's business school, the largest gift in the university's history.

News of Thursday's donation was well received by listeners of Radio Iran, KIRN-AM (670), in Los Angeles.

"We have many prominent rich Iranians here who can afford to do things like this, and hopefully others will follow," said Hossein Hedjazi, program director. "Many people are thankful for the opportunity they have here, and this is the way to show it."

Dean of Humanities professor Karen Lawrence said the center planned to eventually provide a bachelor's degree in Persian studies, and until then would supplement the work of other departments. "We are proud that we are marrying a scholarly interest with real community interest."

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