The newly renamed Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, which is housed in the Barker Center, will foster collaborations among the humanities, social sciences, and sciences in the belief that the humanities make a unique contribution in providing platforms for debate across various fields and forms of knowledge.

File photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Mahindra gives $10M for Humanities Center

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Largest gift for the study of humanities in Harvard’s history

Harvard University announced today (Oct. 4) that Anand Mahindra ’77, M.B.A.’81, has given the University $10 million to support the Humanities Center in honor of his mother, Indira Mahindra. It is the largest gift for the study of humanities in Harvard’s history, and will advance the unique interdisciplinary collaborations led by center director Homi Bhabha. In recognition, the center will be renamed the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard.

“This remarkable gift is a significant affirmation of the importance of the humanities and the central place of the liberal arts in the University,” said Drew Faust, president of Harvard University and Lincoln Professor of History. “It comes at a time when it is vital to bring a humane and critical perspective to the urgent questions that confront the world. Anand Mahindra understands the essential role of the humanities in this work, and I am deeply grateful.”

“I am happy to be able to contribute to the cause of the humanities,” said Mahindra. “To address complex problems in an interdependent world, it is vital to encourage the cross-cultural and interdisciplinary exchange of ideas in an international setting. I am proud to be part of the intellectual legacy of India’s contribution to global thinking across the arts, culture, science, and philosophy. I am convinced of the need for incorporating social and humanistic concerns into the core values that inform the world of business and have sought to do so with tremendous support from my peers and colleagues at work and beyond.”

“The tradition of liberal arts education is at the heart of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences,” said Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and John H. Finley Jr. Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “The Humanities Center is a showcase for this approach, creating fertile confrontations of perspectives, histories, and frameworks that probe our understanding of the human condition, our world, and ourselves. Anand Mahindra’s understanding of this critical work is exceeded only by the generosity of his support. Under the guidance of Professor Bhabha, this gift will enable the Humanities Center to expand its offerings of critical interdisciplinary research and unique conversations.”

“The Humanities Center’s association with the Mahindra family, renowned for the cosmopolitan ethos of its business ventures in India and abroad, will emphasize the universal value of the humanities in both education and public life,” said Bhabha, who is also the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English. “The humanities teach us the careful arts of interpretation and extend our understanding of the lives, works, and histories of others. We humanists build communities, not models. Anand Mahindra’s gift will enhance the Humanities Center’s presence as the crossroads of the Harvard community, encouraging the traffic of ideas across the campus and beyond. Our very name now signals the global reach of the humanities.”

The Mahindra Humanities Center will advance interdisciplinary exchanges among Harvard faculty, faculty from other area institutions, graduate students, undergraduates, and the public. It will sponsor a wide range of panel discussions, lectures, readings, conferences, performances, workshops, and seminars, as well as graduate and postdoctoral fellowships. The center will foster collaborations among the humanities, social sciences, and sciences in the belief that the humanities make a unique contribution in providing platforms for debate across various fields and forms of knowledge.

These activities will take place during a year of increased emphasis at Harvard on the role of the humanities in the University and in public life. Faust has indicated that she will charge a faculty working group, beginning in the spring semester, with exploring the role of humanistic study in the curriculum, in collaborative and interdisciplinary work across the University, and in public discourse at the national and international levels.

The naming of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard reflects the intellectual background of Mahindra, who came to Harvard as an undergraduate in the film studies program of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, graduated magna cum laude, and went on to earn his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School (HBS).

Mahindra is vice chairman and managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., the flagship company of the Mahindra Group, which is among the top 10 industrial houses in India. His extensive activities as a Harvard alumnus include membership on the Committee on University Resources, the Advisory Committee of the Harvard University Asia Center, the HBS Board of Dean’s Advisors, and the Asia-Pacific Advisory Board. He co-founded the HBS Association of India and received the HBS Alumni Achievement Award in 2008.