Queens College Announces New Nasser D. Khalili Visiting Professorship in Ilsamic Studies and Rubin Foundation Gift of Islamic Arts Website

— Gifts Further Strengthen QC’s Academic Focus on the Middle East —

FLUSHING, NY, July 6, 2011 – Queens College President James Muyskens today announced two major advances in the college’s growing emphasis on Middle Eastern scholarship.

Iranian-born Nasser D. Khalili, a 1974 graduate of the college and owner of the world’s largest private collection of Islamic art, has made a gift of $200,000 towards a Visiting Professorship in Art History, with a focus on Islamic Art. “The Nasser D. Khalili Professorship will allow us to attract a major scholar as the college, with Dr. Khalili’s assistance, moves toward establishing a chair in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies,” says President Muyskens. “We are very grateful to Professor Khalili for his generosity and his pursuit of peace among people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, which aligns perfectly with the college’s priorities.”

Professor Khalili is co-founder and chairman of the London-based Maimonides Foundation, which promotes peace and understanding between the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He is a Trustee of the City of Jerusalem; was knighted by two Popes for his pursuit of peace among nations; holds the title of Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Francis I; and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Boston University. In addition to his BS from Queens College, he is a graduate, Associate Research Professor, and Honorary Fellow of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Queens College has also received a unique gift from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation– the Arts of the Islamic World website, currently at http://www.artsoftheislamicworld.org/ , a virtual, interactive museum of Islamic art placed in historical context. Its goal is to foster a greater appreciation of Islamic art in the West and to help bridge the widening cultural divide in our post-9/11 world.  The images on this website come from the Khalili Collections.

Shelley and Donald Rubin, co-founders of the Rubin Museum of Art, established their foundation in 1995 “to support the arts, meet urgent human needs, defend liberty and promote social justice.” According to Mr. Rubin, the virtual museum was transferred to Queens College “so that it can be a part of the major effort in which this esteemed institution is engaged to further the study of Islamic Arts.”

Located in Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in America, Queens College has put greater emphasis on international studies, especially the Middle East, for the past several years. In 2007 it began a semester-long celebration of Islamic and Jewish cultural traditions.

The college also received national attention for its academic and community outreach program, The Middle East and America: Clash of Civilizations or Meeting of the Minds, and has established a Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding.

Most recently, Queens College received a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create a major in Middle Eastern Studies. Once approved, the new major would combine requirements in language, literature, culture, religion, and history, along with opportunities for study overseas. 

In addition, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has provided funding for the college to hire a faculty member in Middle Eastern Studies and another who will teach Arabic. Using these funds, the college has already hired Professor Abdurrahman Atcil (Arabic Language and Islamic Studies, PhD, University of Chicago), who joins other QC professors who are experts in Middle Eastern languages, culture, and history. Because of these curricular advances, the college has begun plans to develop a Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies.

The new relationship with the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation and the Rubin Museum of Art, focusing on the Himalayas, is also inspiring some innovative academic approaches. A class on East Asian Civilization will be taught at the Rubin Museum this fall by Professor Gopal Sukhu (Department of Classical, Middle Eastern, Asian Languages and Cultures). The hope is to expand to two courses in spring 2012. A minor in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies is in development. A pilot Freshman Year Initiative program will also bring new students to the museum this fall.

Regarding these important developments in the college’s Middle East focus, President Muyskens says, “Professor Khalili spoke eloquently when he said: ‘The reason I have worked so hard to put the culture of Islam on the map is because I have always believed that the real weapon of mass destruction is ignorance. Once you tackle that, you have solved a lot of problems.’ Those words speak for us all.”

Queens College, founded in 1937, enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. Its more than 20,000 students come from over 150 nations and speak scores of languages, creating an extraordinarily diverse and welcoming environment. Each year Queens College is cited by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s 100 “Best Value” colleges, thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. In addition, U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges (2011) ranks QC among the top 10 public universities in its category “Best Universities—Master’s (North).” The college opened its first residence hall in August 2009. More info on Queens College at www.qc.cuny.edu .     

 For more about Queens College visit http://www.qc.cuny.edu/Pages/default.aspx Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services


Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services