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Crown Gift Expands Israel Studies

Will expand teaching of Israel studies, name of Jewish studies center at Northwestern

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November 26, 2012 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Renée and Lester Crown are giving Northwestern University a generous gift to expand undergraduate teaching on modern Israel and support activities related to the understanding of the culture, politics and society of a small country that plays a significant role in the world. As part of this expansion, a new academic position, the Crown Chair in Israel Studies, will be funded this year through the generous gift. 

The courses and related activities will be housed in the newly named Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies in the University's Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences as well as in other Weinberg departments and programs. (With the expansion of Israel studies, the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies has added “Israel Studies” to its name.)

“The Crowns’ involvement in the intellectual life and leadership of Northwestern has been integral to the University’s achievements and planning for the future,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro.

That involvement stretches back to the 1940s, when Lester Crown earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. He has since become a well-known industrialist, philanthropist and longtime member of Northwestern's Board of Trustees.

"Lester’s generosity is guided by his long-held belief that students need to learn the history and reasons for the complex relationships in the Middle East, based on established expertise and rigors of the academy,” Schapiro said. “And an understanding of Israel certainly is key to that history.”

The multi-discipline center will expand Israel studies -- covering the period starting in 1948, when the country was established as an independent state, to the present, with an examination of the background leading up to Israel’s establishment.

The courses on Israel studies will be offered within history, political science, sociology, anthropology, economics, comparative literary studies, business institutions and various language and literature departments.

Renée and Lester Crown’s past support of Northwestern includes significant gifts to support engineering and the physical sciences, to build the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion and the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies, and to help the University expand Middle East studies.

“The Crowns’ generosity has enabled Weinberg to enhance resources and scholarship from various disciplines to give students a nuanced understanding of the issues and complex relationships that play out in the Middle East everyday,” Schapiro said.

This expansion of undergraduate teaching and activities related to modern Israel affirms a key goal of Northwestern's strategic plan -- engaging with the world. Northwestern is committed to broadening students' perspectives in a global era.

"I have spent a great deal of time in discourse about the Middle East and about Israel, in particular," said Lester Crown, who, for many years, has met with leaders in the region and been active with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "Renée and I are very pleased to help give future leaders at Northwestern a deeper understanding of the complex issues related to Israel and its crucial role in the world."

The gift was announced to the University community on Nov. 19 at Northwestern’s Pick-Staiger Concert Hall during the launch of the new Renée and Lester Crown Speaker Series. Nathan Englander, selected by The New Yorker as “one of 20 writers for the 2lst century,” delivered the inaugural lecture.

Topics: University