HONG KONG, October 3, 2011 — Mr. Robert Y. C. Ho, Chairman of the Board of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, today announced that the Foundation has expanded its initiatives to promote the understanding of Buddhist philosophy in the West, and to bridge the study and practice of Buddhism, by donating a total of $5.2 million US in grants to Harvard University and Stanford University. In their combined purpose and effect, these grants are unprecedented as donations to major U.S. universities.
In a world where ideas, resources and cultural influence are now flowing as never before from East to West, and where Buddhism is approaching mainstream status in America and Europe, the grants strengthen and develop the Foundation’s existing Center at Stanford; expand the Foundation’s global network of Buddhist learning by creating its first link with Harvard; and break new ground by establishing a more profound connection between academic Buddhist scholarship and Buddhist practice.
A grant of $2.7 million will fund the new and innovative Buddhist Ministry Initiative at Harvard Divinity School. The Initiative creates the first formal structure at the school to enable Master of Divinity degree candidates to pursue studies in a distinct non-Christian tradition. The Initiative will help Buddhists bring their insights to people of different faiths who are studying for the ministry; will allow future Buddhist clergy to be trained in a way appropriate to the modern world; and will support the field education of Buddhist clergy in hospitals and other sites of pastoral care.
A gift of $2.5 million to Stanford University, with matching funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will create an endowed Chair in Buddhist Studies at the University’s Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Center for Buddhist Studies. The first permanent faculty post dedicated to Buddhism at Stanford, the Chair will help to develop this field within the Department of Religious Studies and to expand the work of the Ho Center.
Robert Y. C. Ho stated, “The Ho family began working ten years ago to build a global network of Buddhist learning, even before the Foundation was formally established. We believe that a deeper understanding of Buddhist philosophy can help nurture creativity, encourage greater integrity and ingenuity in confronting challenges and foster effective and positive change, both for individuals and for societies.”
At Harvard University, The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Buddhist Studies Fund supports an eight-year initiative that reflects the traditional strengths of Harvard Divinity School’s existing pedagogical methods and offerings in ministry preparation. The Initiative includes coursework and lectures in ministry arts, field education, and conferences, as well as student services for Master of Divinity degree candidates. The Initiative will cover five areas: faculty support, an annual lecture series, field education, international fellowships and a triennial conference.
“We are very happy to have new, significant funding from the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation to undergird and expand our program to train leaders for Buddhist communities in North America, and to do so with the ability for our students to gain experience in Buddhist-majority countries of Asia and for Asian Buddhist students to come to Cambridge,” said William A. Graham, Dean of Harvard Divinity School.
At Stanford University, the endowment of The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Professor of Buddhist Studies, part of Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Center for Buddhist Studies and the Department of Religious Studies, serves to advance academic teaching and research on Buddhism, with a particular emphasis on Chinese Buddhism. The Center was established in 2008 with a $5 million gift from the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation and is dedicated to the promotion of both the academic study and public understanding of the Buddhist tradition. The Center offers annual programming of public events, works closely with the University in the training of undergraduate and graduate students and networks with individuals and institutions around the world to foster scholarly communication in Buddhist studies.
“We at the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford are deeply grateful for the continued support of the Robert Ho Family Foundation,” said Carl Bielefeldt, center co-director and the Evans-Wentz Professor in Religious Studies. “The Foundation's endowment of a Chair in Buddhist Studies represents the first professorial chair dedicated to the study of Buddhism at Stanford. It ensures that the field of Buddhist Studies will continue to be represented at the University, and that the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies will continue to benefit from senior faculty leadership in the field. The University's matching gift for the Chair is a measure of its commitment to the study of Buddhism at Stanford and its appreciation for the generous support of the Ho Family Foundation.”
Established in Hong Kong in 2005, The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation is a private philanthropic organization engaged in strategic, sustainable and long-term projects in Hong Kong and around the world. Its mission is to foster and support Chinese arts and culture, as well as to promote deeper understanding of the teachings of the Buddha and to apply them to everyday life. Since 2001 the Ho family has been building a global network of Buddhist learning through the support of Buddhist studies at leading universities including University of Hong Kong, International Buddhist College in Thailand, University of British Columbia, University of Toronto and Stanford University.
In 2010, the Foundation provided funding for The Buddha, a documentary film by David Grubin about the life and teachings of the Buddha, as well as a companion teacher’s guide and a program of educational outreach organized by the Center for the Contemplative Mind in Society (CMind) in Northampton, MA. In addition, the Foundation has provided funding for The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the first gallery for Buddhist sculpture in the United Kingdom, and for The Dragon’s Gift – The Sacred Arts of Bhutan, a conservation project that includes a major touring exhibition of some of Bhutan’s most sacred Buddhist objects. The Ho family has also initiated the establishment of Buddhistdoor (http://www.buddhistdoor.com), one of the largest and most visited global websites on Buddhism.
To learn more about The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation and its activities, please visit www.rhfamilyfoundation.org
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