Columbia University’s Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies Receives $10 Million Gift

Columbia News
August 15, 2018

Columbia University has received a $10 million gift from the Persian Heritage Foundation to endow the Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies. Formerly known as the Center for Iranian Studies, the Center will be renamed to recognize Professor Yarshater, the founding director of the Center whose legacy and dedication to the study of Persian history and culture were exceptional.

This gift will enable the Yarshater Center to significantly advance the field through scholarly publications, including the Encyclopædia Iranica, A History of Persian Literature series, a Persian art series, and a Persian text series.

“In a career that has spanned seven decades, Ehsan Yarshater has distinguished himself as a pioneering and brilliant scholar of Persian culture, history, and literature,” said Columbia University Provost John H. Coatsworth. “This gift is a fitting tribute to his critical work and will support publications that are essential to the future of this vibrant area of study.”

A member of the Columbia faculty for more than 40 years, Professor Yarshater set the standard for generations of scholars as the first full-time professor of Persian Studies at an American university since World War II. He also served as the general editor of a 40-volume translation of al-Tabari’s 10th-century history of the world and the founding editor of the Encyclopædia Iranica.

The Encyclopædia Iranica is a scholarly, groundbreaking, and comprehensive research tool authored by multiple scholars. It is dedicated to the broad and inclusive study of Iranian civilization in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent and the history of Persian literature, offering a comprehensive and detailed history of its subject.

According to Professor Yarshater, “I am deeply honored as well as delighted to witness the creation of the Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies. Having devoted my entire life to the preservation and advancement of Persianate culture, I am thankful that through the establishment of this Center, my life's work will continue unabated.”

He continued, “It is a source of great comfort to me that through the support of the Persian Heritage Foundation, and the stewardship of Columbia University, such internationally acclaimed projects as the Encyclopædia Iranica and A History of Persian Literature, as well as many other future projects will find a secure home at the Yarshater Center.”

Professor Yarshater was born in Hamadan, Persia (Iran) in 1920 and earned a PhD in Persian language and literature from the University of Tehran (1947) before studying with W.B. Henning at London University, where he received a master’s degree and a PhD in Old and Middle Iranian (1960). He came to Columbia in 1958 and founded the Center for Iranian Studies in 1968. Professor Yarshater has authored several books, including Persian Poetry in the Second Half of the 15th Century (1953) and Southern Tati Dialects (1970).

The Yarshater Center is dedicated to a wide-ranging and comprehensive vision for Iranian studies with the Persian Heritage Foundation’s continuous support. The Center will be located within the Arts and Sciences at Columbia University and its director will report to the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences.

Professor Yarshater, 98, passed away on September 2, 2018 in Fresno, Californiaapproximately two weeks after the announcement was made to rename the Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies in his honor. Read a joint statement about Professor Yarshater released by The Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies, The Persian Heritage Foundation, and the Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation.