Mohini Jain

Mohini Jain, an Indian American retired teacher and resident of Davis, Calif., donated $1.5 million to U.C. Davis to advance the study of Jainism. As part of the gift, the university will establish the Mohini Jain Presidential Chair for Jain Studies in the Department of Religious Studies. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo)

Mohini Jain, an Indian American philanthropist, retired teacher and longtime resident of Davis, Calif., Feb. 21 made a $1.5 million donation to U.C. Davis to advance the study of Jainism.

As part of the gift, the university will establish the Mohini Jain Presidential Chair for Jain Studies in the Department of Religious Studies.

The chair is part of a larger effort to position U.C. Davis as one of the leaders in the study of Indian religions and the interdisciplinary field of South Asia studies broadly, the university said in a news release.

“Jainism is a very ancient and important religion and philosophy that champions truth, nonviolence and a multiplicity of viewpoints,” said Jain in a statement. “In our multicultural, global world, it is important to escape boxed-in points of view. I am hopeful the impact of the chair at U.C. Davis will be a broadening of minds and a renewed focus on dialogue and peace.”

Jain was a research scientist at U.C. Davis in the 1980s and then served as a high school science teacher for 19 years, retiring in 2008.

For decades, she has made giving to U.C. Davis a priority, the university said.

In 1988, she made her first gift in honor of her husband, the late Anil K. Jain, a distinguished faculty member in electrical and computer engineering. Each year, the university’s engineering college recognizes outstanding students in the field through the Anil K. Jain Memorial Fund.

The Mohini Jain Family Foundation established an endowment at the U.C. Davis School of Education to provide annual support for doctoral students whose research has the potential to improve public education and has made two matching gifts in response to the U.C. Davis Foundation’s matching fund for graduate students, in addition to many other gifts in support of the U.C. Davis Chancellor’s Fund and the School of Education, among others.

Jain is a trustee of the U.C. Davis Foundation and a member of the foundation’s executive committee. She is a member of the board of advisers for the U.C. Davis School of Education and has been a dedicated donor to U.C. Davis since 1983, the university said.

The presidential chair will be awarded to a scholar with a well-established record for creative, exceptional and interdisciplinary research on Jainism, the university said.

As a member of the religious studies department, the holder of the chair will help develop curriculum in Jain studies, offer graduate courses in Jainism, pursue a vigorous research agenda, give public lectures, and contribute to the development of a religions of India and South Asia studies initiative at U.C. Davis by participating in community outreach, it said.

“This gift will further diversify and strengthen our expertise in world religions and is another step toward U.C. Davis serving as a leader in India religions and Asia studies globally,” said Archana Venkatesan, chair of the religious studies department and associate professor of religious studies and comparative literature, in a statement.

“I am so pleased with this gift establishing the Mohini Jain Presidential Chair,” U.C. Davis interim chancellor Ralph J. Hexter added. “It comes at a time when understanding and cooperation among the world’s peoples have never been more important, and when keeping an open mind and searching for peaceful solutions to conflict have never been more in need. Mrs. Jain and the Jain family understand this so well, and their generous contribution will help to make these aspirations a reality.”

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