UCSC receives $367,000 gift to establish endowed chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies

The University of California, Santa Cruz, has received a gift of $367,000 from Hardit and Harbhajan K. Singh, through the Sikh Foundation, to fund an endowed chair in Sikh and Punjabi studies in the History Department.

The Sarbjit Singh Aurora Endowed Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies, established in memory of the donors' son, will be held by a distinguished member of the humanities faculty and will support research and teaching about the Sikh community from a multicultural and global perspective.

"The Sikhs have been in California for more than 100 years, and the Sarbjit Singh Aurora Endowed Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies provides an opportunity for students to learn more about Sikh religion, history, arts, culture and diaspora," said Dr. Narinder S. Kapany, chairman and founder of the Sikh Foundation. "The chair is an excellent basis for comprehensive study and research in Sikh studies at UC Santa Cruz."

There are approximately 20 million Sikhs in the world today, with significant communities living in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Fiji, Thailand, Singapore, Maylaysia, and the United Kingdom. The ancestral home of the Sikhs is the Punjab region, divided between Pakistan and northern India. Sikhs arrived in California more than a century ago, and their descendants today are employed in activities ranging from high-tech entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley to farming in the Central Valley.

"The gift will solidify UC Santa Cruz's strength in South Asian Studies by creating an endowed chair that focuses on the world's fifth largest religion, its history, and the history of the Punjabi area from which the Sikh religion arose," noted Georges Van Den Abbeele, UCSC's dean of humanities. "It will be explored in the wider context of South Asian history and the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora, which includes 70,000 Sikhs in California."

The Sikh Foundation previously established the first North American chair in Sikh Studies at UC Santa Barbara in 1998. Since then, the foundation has also funded chairs in Sikh and Punjabi studies at UC Riverside and CSU East Bay.