A foundation in Chicago has announced that it will donate £20 million ($32 million) to SOAS, the School of Oriential and African Studies at the University of London. The Alphawood Foundation’s grant will advance the study and preservation of Buddhist and Hindu art in Southeast Asia.
This is the largest gift ever made by the Alphawood Foundation, and is one of the largest made to a UK higher education institution, especially in the field of arts and humanities. The Foundation’s grants are usually below $50,000.
This grant represents 28% of the School’s 2012-13 turnover.
It will fund over 80 scholarships, add three fully endowed academic posts, and £5 million of it will be used to support SOAS’ campus expansion in central London.
Alphawood founder Fred Eychaner has a deep interest in Southeast Asian art, and studied at SOAS in 2009 when he participated in the School’s Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art.
Eychaner explained why he had chosen to make such a transformational gift. He said that SOAS “creates a very special learning and research environment where West meets East. It builds bridges to the universities, museums and galleries of Asia, including in areas where the arts were held back by war and politics in the 20th century.
“While SOAS is firmly rooted in London, it has always been outward looking and seeks to make an impact in the regions it studies. We intend our gift to have its greatest effect in Southeast Asia – and over time, SOAS graduates from the programmes we create today will take their scholarship and talents to the museums, universities, galleries and other institutions of that region. This is how our gift will be transformative.”