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UTSC re-names program devoted to Buddhist philosophy

Prof. Rick Halpern (left), UTSC's dean and vice-principal academic, and Robert H.N. Ho unveil a new plaque celebrating UTSC's cross-disciplinary approach to the understanding of Buddhist philosophy. (Photo by Lisa Sakulensky)

Fostering a deeper understanding of Buddhist philosophy and its application to daily life has been the aim of a $4 million endowment to the University of Toronto Scarborough from Tung Lin Kok Yuen—a Hong Kong-based non-profit organization established by Lady Clara Ho Tung, the wife of Sir Robert Ho Tung—that is managed by The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation. At UTSC, this goal is being realized across disciplines that are traditionally associated with the study of Buddhist thought, and some that are surprising.

“Our faculty are pushing boundaries—studying how Buddhist philosophy is interpreted and applied in contemporary society across diverse disciplines, from the environment to women’s and gender studies to psychology,” said Prof. Rick Halpern, UTSC’s dean and vice-principal academic. 

The gift now connects UTSC within a network of academic centres—including Harvard University, Stanford University and the Courtald Institute of Art in London—that are supported by The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, a private philanthropic organization established by the grandson of Sir Robert and Lady Clara. Funds from the endowment enable UTSC faculty and departments to mount conferences, workshops and symposia, and host visiting scholars from around the world for academic and public events.

Acknowledging the breadth of the gift’s impact across its academic programs, UTSC has renamed the Buddhist Studies initiative, now known as The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies. Prof. Halpern together with Foundation founder Robert H. N. Ho marked the occasion by unveiling a new plaque that will be placed in the Arts and Administration Building, UTSC’s main entrance.  The event also recognized the consolidation of TLKY’s gifts under the management of the Foundation.

“The encouragement of a wider understanding of Buddhism has deep roots in the family tradition. My family foundation believes that the 2500-year old philosophy offers good insight and has a lot to teach us today. Providing faculty and students the resources to invite outstanding professors of Buddhism to visit, support public lectures and other programming will advance academic study of Buddhism as well as deepening the broader audiences’ understanding of Buddhist philosophy,” said Robert H. N. Ho, founder of the family foundation.

“Contemporary Buddhist scholarship is increasingly engaging other disciplines which seek to consider a Buddhist perspective in meeting the 21st century challenges,” added Mr. Ho. “The Foundation appreciates the University’s efforts in applying the resources over a wider field of scholarship. We look forward to more new developments in fostering and expanding Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough.”

The program at UTSC will be administered by the Dean’s office, positioning the study of Buddhism in a uniquely broad context within the larger examination of transnational culture, migration and politics.

UTSC is located in a community in which Buddhism is particularly well represented, making the campus ideally situated to serve as an international hub in this network for Buddhist studies. 

"We are especially honored that the Ho family chose UTSC as the home of one its first programs at a Canadian university," said Prof. Halpern. "Our students, faculty and community benefit by working collaboratively and seamlessly within this very strong global network. We look forward to new programming in the years to come that will encompass other disciplines and reach wider audiences.”

Following in his grandmother’s footsteps, Robert H. N. Ho, a journalist and philanthropist, established the Foundation in Hong Kong in 2005.  Continuing Sir Robert’s and Lady Clara’s legacy, the Foundation works to expand the understanding, interpretation and application of Buddhist philosophy.

© University of Toronto Scarborough