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Press release on establishment of Harvard fellowships in honour of Professor Amartya Sen

Washington, DC
December 10, 2008

The Government of India today made a gift of USD 4.5 million to Harvard University to establish a fund to provide Fellowships to deserving students from India for pursuing studies at the University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Ambassador Ronen Sen and Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard University, signed the agreement on the establishment of the Fund at a ceremony at Harvard University today, in the presence of Professor Amartya Sen. 

This gift was made on the 75th birth anniversary of Dr. Amartya Sen, Distinguished Lamont Professor at the University, in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments, his much-acclaimed work for social and economic justice across the world. The Fund will be called “India Fellowships given in honour of Amartya Sen”. Consistent with University’s policy, the Fellowships will at a later date be formally designated as the Amartya Sen Fellowship Fund and the recipients of the fellowship as Amartya Sen Fellows. 

Ambassador Sen thanked Harvard University for accepting the gift on the occasion of Professor Amartya Sen’s 75th birth anniversary. He described Professor Sen, a Nobel Laureate and the recipient of the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, as a great son of India and one of the world’s foremost contemporary thinkers. He expressed confidence that the Fund will further deepen the strong bonds between Harvard University and India; expand the university’s impressive scholarship on India, especially at the university’s South Asia Initiative and, open new opportunities for gifted scholars from India to study at one of the world’s premier universities. 

Speaking on the occasion, Harvard University President Drew Faust said that Professor Amartya Sen not only symbolized Harvard’s outstanding academic standards but was also a deeply valued link between India and the University. She added that Amartya Sen, apart from being a renowned economist, was a respected philosopher and champion of democracy and human rights. Hence it was appropriate that the agreement on establishing the Fellowships was being signed not only on the occasion of his 75th birthday, but, coincidentally, also on the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

Prof. Amartya Sen said, “I am delighted that the gift will help bright Indian students to come to Harvard. The students receiving the India Fellowships will have the opportunity of studying at what is perhaps the best university in the world, and Harvard too will benefit from having wonderful students who could not otherwise afford to come here. Since I see myself mainly as a teacher - and only occasionally as a researcher - I am very happy that the kind gift of the government will be used for the education of Indian students”.

The South Asia Initiative (SAI) of the University, headed by Prof. Sugata Bose, has since its establishment 5 years ago, significantly raised the profile of studies on India and South Asia at Harvard, and internationally. In its first 4 years it sent nearly 300 faculty members and students to India and South Asia, conducted high profile seminars and conferences, supported new websites, and conducted other research activities. In 2007, Harvard President Drew Faust authorized the raising of endowed funds of $20 million for a South Asia Institute and $16 million for endowed Chairs. In 2007-2008, there were 288 South Asian students at Harvard University, of which 216 were from India.