UH Receives $2 Million Commitment to Support Study of Tamil Language and Culture

Gift Will Establish Endowment for Research, Endowed Professorship

Tamil Studies agreement signing
Sam Kannappan, founding member and board president, Houston Tamil Studies Chair, Inc. (left) with Renu Khator, president, University of Houston; Antonio D. Tillis, dean, UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; and Eloise Brice, vice president, University Advancement attended a ceremonial signing of an agreement to commit $2 million to support the study of Tamil language and culture at the University of Houston.

A Texas nonprofit organization with a mission to promote Tamil language, culture and literature has made a $2 million commitment to the University of Houston to establish an endowment supporting the study of Tamil heritage. The Tamil language is considered the oldest in the world — spoken by more than 70 million people worldwide — primarily in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore.

Houston Tamil Studies Chair, Inc., which is the donor, is a nonprofit that was founded last year with the goal of establishing the Tamil studies chair at the University of Houston and providing a forum for the growing population Tamil-Americans in the United States — approximately 250,000 people.

“As Tamil-American families assimilate into the fabric of the multi-cultural society in this great nation, and as all our children get educated in American Universities, HTSC takes great pride in leading this initiative to expand awareness of the rich Tamil culture, language and literature within an educational setting,” said Sam Kannappan, founding member and board president of Houston Tamil Studies Chair, Inc.

The initial $1 million pledge will create The Houston Tamil Studies Chair, Inc. Research Endowment in the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. These funds will support research program costs, equipment and seminars with invited scholars who are experts on Tamil societies and the Tamil diaspora in the United States.

An additional $1 million will rename the endowment The Houston Tamil Studies Chair Inc. Endowed Professorship. The educator who will hold this professorship will be a global research trailblazer with expertise on the rich diversity of Tamil culture and its global diaspora, according to Antonio D. Tillis, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

“This gift serves as a new resource for global research opportunities for our faculty and students,” said Tillis. “It affords expanding knowledge on a region that has interdisciplinary academic appeal with local and global contexts.”  

Houston Tamil Studies Chair, Inc. was established through the vision of its founding members Sockalingam Sam Kannappan; Dr. S.G. Appan; Sockalingam Narayanan; Perumal Annamalai; Nagamanickam Ganesan; Tupil V Narasiman and Dr. Thiruvengadam Arumugam. They have been leading community fundraising efforts in the Greater Houston area, Texas and beyond.

“Through this generous gift, we are able to enrich our academic programs and introduce our students to Tamil’s special and unique culture,” said Eloise Brice, vice president for University Advancement.

The gift is part of the “Here, We Go” Campaign, the University of Houston’s first major fundraising campaign in more than 25 years. The University has raised more than $1 billion to address key priorities, including scholarships, faculty support and strengthening the university’s partnership with Houston, and momentum continues as UH moves beyond its original billion dollar goal.