Buddhist Studies at University of Toronto Scarborough has received a major boost from a group looking to inspire public interest in Buddhism in Canada and around the world.
Tung Lin Kok Yuen, a Hong Kong-based non-profit Buddhist organization, has donated $4 million to establish an endowed visiting professorship and a series of conferences and public lectures at U of T Scarborough (UTSC). “The foundation’s generosity is putting Canada on the map in terms of Buddhist studies,” says U of T president David Naylor. The gift is the largest in UTSC’s history.
The visiting professorship will enable UTSC to attract international experts and scholars in a variety of subjects, says William Bowen, chair of UTSC’s humanities department. “One year, we’ll have a specialist in Buddhist art, another year in Buddhist philosophy.”
U of T currently offers an undergraduate program in Buddhism and Asian religions in the department for the study of religion. “This gift will create the momentum needed to propel the University of Toronto into the ranks of leading institutions in the study of Buddhism,” says Kwong-loi Shun, UTSC’s principal. “We have prominent faculty in related areas of study, one of the most extensive library collections in North America and support from the local community.”
UTSC is building a “diversity-informed curriculum” to reflect the makeup of its student population, says Shun, who notes that the campus’s first-year world religions class routinely fills to its capacity of 500.
In addition to advancing Buddhist Studies as a scholarly field, the gift will promote research findings through a series of conferences and public lectures. “This is an opportunity to connect the university to the community,” says Bowen. Public lectures can also be attached to conferences, he adds, providing “a nice interaction between the public and scholars.”