Farzaneh gift establishes Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies

Spring 2016

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“Omar Khayyám” by Hossein Fakhimi sits outside OU’s newly named Farzaneh Hall. A landmark gift from the Farzaneh Family Foundation will help develop better cultural understanding and position OU students in a global economy.

“Omar Khayyám” by Hossein Fakhimi sits outside OU’s newly named Farzaneh Hall. A landmark gift from the Farzaneh Family Foundation will help develop better cultural understanding and position OU students in a global economy.

Iran appears to be slowly emerging from decades of tension with the United States and the West and will be a key piece of U.S. foreign policy. OU students will be uniquely positioned to encounter this new global reality through the help of a $4 million commitment from the Farzaneh Family Foundation.

The gift is the largest in OU history from alumni who came to the university as inter­national students. It will fund a wide range of educational initiatives and establish the OU Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies.

“The University of Oklahoma is deeply grateful to the Farzaneh family for this gener­ous gift, which places OU at the forefront in Iranian and Middle Eastern Studies,” said OU President David L. Boren.

The Farzaneh Family Foundation is headed by OU College of Architecture alumni Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh, who are found­ers of Home Creations, an Oklahoma-based company that has been named to the Top 100 Builders in America. The brothers came to OU from Iran in 1978; soon after, the Iranian Rev­olution broke out and essentially cut them off from regular family support. Jalal said he can still remember the exact month that an Okla­homa foundation saved his education by offer­ing a $500 scholarship.

Both he and Mohammad went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and more than a dozen members of the Farzaneh family since have become OU graduates.

“It is very, very important for all of us to do what we can for future generations, especially in light of the current state budget situation,” Jalal said. “It is the American way to help each other.” The Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies will allow OU students to develop a better cultural understand­ing, appreciation and aware­ness of Iran and the Middle East. The center also will eventually host an academic major in Iranian and Per­sian Gulf Studies, which will establish OU as a pre­mier academic institution in that field, Boren said.

In addition, the Farzaneh gift to the OU Founda­tion will help provide three endowed professorships, scholarships for Iranian students and those study­ing the Persian language, an endowed lectureship, and a prize for Iranian literature. Persian artwork and book collection endowments will be funded as well.

At a March 30 cer­emony, Boren unveiled the 7-foot-tall sculpture, “Omar Khayyám,” which now stands outside the College of International Studies. The statue was made possi­ble by internationally noted sculptor Professor Hossein Fakhimi and pays tribute to the famed Persian mathematician, philosopher and poet. Symbols in the sculpture signify Khayyám’s contributions to poetry, astronomy, binomial theorems and al­gebra.

The OU Board of Regents voted in May to recognize the Farzaneh family’s generosity by naming the hall and center where the College of International Studies is housed in their honor. The family has given more than $8 mil­lion to OU, with previous gifts endowing the Farzaneh Family Chair in Iranian Studies, establishing the Farzaneh Family Professor in Iranian Studies and the Farzaneh Family Language Instructor for Persian (Farsi) Lan­guage, and providing a reception suite for of­fices at OU Education Abroad and Interna­tional Student Services.