Tamil professorship at Stony Brook University

Prof. Bala and Prabha Swaminathan have created a Tamil professorship at Stony Brook University in honor of Bala’s parents, called the Anandavalli and Dr. G. Swaminathan Endowed Research Professorship. “Tamil language is more than something to speak. It harbors a culture’s history and traditions, and perpetuates identity and pride. Ultimately, when its wisdom is shared, Tamil language creates better cross-cultural understanding and cooperation,” said Bala.

The University also has a very successful India Studies Center, which recently celebrated its 20th year. The couple has established the Tamil professorship in the College of Arts and Sciences to leverage interdisciplinary, scholarly research collaborations with linguistics, anthropologists, musicians and sociologists.

“I have a very high regard for Stony Brook’s research capabilities. I expect the professor in Tamil will be an active contributor on campus, publishing many papers, offering Tamil language classes and creating the new knowledge that will perpetuate and celebrate the language that still has so much to teach us,” Bala added.

Bala said that one of Tamil’s oldest texts, the Kural, inspired him as his father “lived by” the text while he was growing up in the South Indian town of Madurai. The Kural is written by the 4th century BCE poet and philosopher Valluvar and is one of the highly acclaimed texts of secular ethics as well as the most widely translated works in the world.

“Whatever we earn is to provide for others who do not have the same opportunities,” Bala recalls his father saying to him as he used to follow the Kural to help him be generous before becoming a well-known doctor.

Bala founded the New York Tamil Academy for school children and he and Prabha have two sons, Isai Maran and Kavin Mathi. Bala and Prabha’s decided to create the professorship in Tamil at Stony Brook University to help sustain the language and culture that have served them so well.

“Offering an endowed faculty appointment, such as the Anandavalli and Dr. G. Swaminathan Endowed Research Professorship in Tamil, helps us attract the most talented teachers and researchers,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

“We are grateful to Bala and Prabha for their incredible leadership in keeping Tamil and the ideas of the Kural alive for future generations,” he added.

Stony Brook University in New York Dec. 11 announced that Bala and Prabha Swaminathan have established a new endowed professorship which will offer Tamil language studies at the university’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The Tamil language is nearly as old as Hebrew, and stands next to Chinese as the most enduring classical language still spoken today, according to a university news release. Despite the language standing the test of time, only a handful of colleges and universities offer Tamil as a language study, it said.

In a quest to change that, the Swaminathans created the Anandavalli and Dr. G. Swaminathan Endowed Research Professorship in Tamil at Stony Brook University in honor of Bala’s mother and father.

“Tamil language is more than something to speak,” said Bala Swaminathan in a statement. “It harbors a culture’s history and traditions, and perpetuates identity and pride. Ultimately, when its wisdom is shared, Tamil language creates better cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.”

While the university is also home to a thriving India Studies Center, the Swaminathans deliberately established the Tamil professorship in the college of arts and sciences to leverage interdisciplinary, scholarly research collaborations with linguistics, anthropologists, musicians and sociologists, according to the university.

“I have a very high regard for Stony Brook’s research capabilities,” Swaminathan added. “I expect the professor in Tamil will be an active contributor on campus, publishing many papers, offering Tamil language classes and creating the new knowledge that will perpetuate and celebrate the language that still has so much to teach us.”

It was the wisdom of one of Tamil’s oldest texts, the Kural, that first captivated Swaminathan as he grew up in the southern Indian town of Madurai, Stony Brook said. His father “lived by” the Kural. Written by the 4th century BCE poet and philosopher Valluvar, the Kural is one of the most venerated texts of secular ethics and most widely translated works in the world. Coincidentally, Valluvar was also born in Madurai, preceding Swaminathan by more than 2,000 years, it said.

Before Swaminathan’s father became a prominent doctor, he had little to give to others. Still, his father followed the Kural precept to be charitable, once explaining to his son, “Whatever we earn is to provide for others who do not have the same opportunities,” the university noted.

While creating a successful career in the U.S. and founding the New York Tamil Academy for school children, Swaminathan says he’s most proud of the life of purpose and meaning he shares with Prabha and their two sons, Isai Maran and Kavin Mathi, according to the news release.

The Indian American couple hopes the professorship will help sustain the language and culture that have served them so well. “Offering endowed faculty appointments, such as the Anandavalli and Dr. G. Swaminathan Endowed Research Professorship in Tamil, helps us attract the most talented teachers and researchers,” said Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley Jr. in a statement. “We are grateful to Bala and Prabha for their incredible leadership in keeping Tamil and the ideas of the Kural alive for future generations.”

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