October 28, 2013 at 11:12 am

Faculty Member Named for Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy

Chair established by Doctors Ram and Sushila Gawande aims to increase knowledge, awareness of Indian culture, and collaboration between Ohio University and India

By Matt Mackay
From Compass

The Athens community has been home for many years to Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande. Ram, who passed away in August, 2011, was a urologist and Sushila, a pediatrician, moved to Athens in the 1970s and served as an integral part of both the O’Bleness Health System and the city of Athens.

The Gawande family has been known for their philanthropy in the Athens community through the years. In 2012, Sushila Gawande and the Gawande’s non-profit charity Student & Education Support Association, Inc. (SESA), established the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy in Ohio University’s College of Arts & Sciences in honor of Ram Gawande. This fall, Dr. Brian Collins was hired to fill the chair position housed in the Department of Classics and World Religions. Collins’ areas of specialization are Hinduism, Buddhism, comparative religion, theories of religion and religion in Asia.

The Gawande’s philanthropy began when Ram Gawande, William Harlan and Rajindar Koshal established the Friends of India organization in 1984, a move that was in reaction to the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi the same year. All were long-time members of Athens Rotary Club and Rotary International.

In reflecting on the gift, Sushila Gawande said she and her husband have always emphasized the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of Indian independence, who taught non-violent civil disobedience and led India to independence from British rule.

“We can do social justice. I hope everyone can be conscious of helping others. It does not have to be a big thing, but a small act of kindness,” Sushila Gawande said. “These rules are in my and my husband’s heart.”

“The Gawande Chair is a fantastic addition to our teaching and research strength in Classics and World Religions,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Frank. “Bringing an outstanding teacher and scholar like Professor Collins to the College of Arts and Sciences provides students, faculty and our community great opportunities to enrich the mind, body and soul. This has been demonstrated in the time since Professor Collins’ arrival through his courses and through the newly launched Gawande Lecture Series.”

Gawande echoed Frank’s praise for Collins.

“He has already made a difference. He is outstanding. When Dr. Collins brought Anantanand Rambahan to Athens we had a completely full room,” Sushila Gawande said. “I am quite happy with Brian and his work.”

In his role as chair Collins aims to establish a nationally-recognized program for the study of Indian religion and philosophy.

“My focus is integrating the topics of Indian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism into an interdisciplinary South Asian certificate program at Ohio University,” Collins said. “By involving anthropology, history, the English department, and the Department of Classics and World Religions, we will create a network of people here who study South Asia.”

Collins also aims to strengthen the collaboration between OHIO and Gopikabai Sitaram Gawande College (GSG) College.

“They have been sending students to GSG College over the years through the Friends of India grants. By making GSG College more of a central part of the way we do things here, we can enhance opportunities for students to have a place in India where we can send them to study.”

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