Campus news

Big gift for Tamil studies

Ravi Gukathasan

Ravi Gukathasan’s $2 million gift provides a boost for Tamil Studies at UTSC.

One of U of T Scarborough’s earliest Tamil alumni has given UTSC a historic donation of $2 million to support Tamil studies.

The gift from Ravi Gukathasan (U of T PhD, 1987; UTSC BSc, 1982), who is CEO of Digital Specialty Chemicals Ltd. in Scarborough, is the largest single cash gift from an alumnus in UTSC’s 51-year history. It will fund an annual post-doctoral fellowship in Tamil studies as well as scholarships, event programming and digital archiving. 

“I want UTSC to be a star when it comes to the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, its culture, its language, its perspective in the world,” says Gukathasan. “We have the biggest Tamil diaspora in the world in Scarborough. They need to be proud.”

He also sees his gift as a leadership example for other members of the Tamil community to follow. “I think $2 million is a very good nucleus to begin from,” he says.

The 10-year commitment will fund the $1.25 million Ethan and Leah Schweitzer Gukathasan Fellowship, named for Gukathasan’s two teenage children, as well as provide $500,000 for a programming fund, $150,000 for a digital fund, and $100,000 for scholarships, all in the children’s names as well. 

“The gift will add hugely to our ability to expose our campus to what’s going on in Tamil worlds,” says Bhavani Raman, associate professor in the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies and chair of the tri-campus Tamil Worlds Initiative programming committee. “We will be able to support young and upcoming scholars from all over the world with the postdoctoral fellowship, as well as other visitors.” 

She notes that a previous substantial gift from Gukathasan has already allowed UTSC to sponsor a Tamil Studies Conference, hold regular public programming on Tamil subjects and work with the UTSC Library to enhance its Tamil-language collection. She expects to be able to greatly expand such initiatives, including the digitization of Sri Lankan Tamil works for global access. 

Gukathasan sees his gift as just the start. “I’m hoping others will follow suit with more money,” he says. “I hope we can keep building this program and make it very, very well-funded and well-rounded.”