$10 Million Gift Establishes Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at Princeton University

It will be named the Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies.


A $10 million gift from two Princeton alumni will establish the Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at Princeton University.

Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani '80, and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani '74, have created the center to provide an interdisciplinary approach to understanding Iran and the Persian Gulf, with special attention to the region's significance for the contemporary world.

The couple, of New York City, grew up and completed  high school in Iran before coming to, and eventually settling in, the U.S.

Both majored in economics at Princeton and earned a certificate in the Program in Near Eastern Studies.

"Princeton and Iran go back more than a century," said Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani, an oil and gas executive who serves as chairman and chief executive officer of RAK Petroleum in the United Arab Emirates and executive chairman of Norway's DNO International. "Howard C. Baskerville, Class of 1907, went to Iran as an English teacher and died fighting alongside his students in a short-lived quest for constitutional democracy. He is still revered by Iranians who remember also the Princeton connection — a connection that drew me to this University more than 40 years ago."

Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, chief investment officer of the Private Wealth Management Group at Goldman Sachs, added: "Baskerville is reported to have said that 'the only difference between me and these people is my place of birth, and this is not a big difference.' We hope that through its mission of scholarship and teaching, this center will build on the legacy of Baskerville and that of so many other Princetonians in bringing people and places closer together."

The center's scholars and students will explore a broad range of topics, including regional and international security, oil and energy markets, and trade and global finance.

Faculty members and visiting scholars will conduct research and teach courses that address the history, politics, economics and culture of the region, from ancient Persia to the modern states that border the Persian Gulf. 

"We are very grateful to Sharmin and Bijan for making this center possible," said University President Shirley Tilghman. "Both as a university and as a nation, it is essential that we cultivate a fuller understanding of Iran and the other countries of the Persian Gulf, given their rich culture, geopolitical importance, and the troubled history of American-Iranian relations. As technology binds the world more closely together, we must develop the intellectual tools to match this new proximity and to foster in our students a cosmopolitan perspective. The Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies promises to make a significant contribution to this process." 

The couple's gift is part of Aspire, the University's five-year fundraising campaign that concluded on June 30 after raising $1.88 billion. 

The Mossavar-Rahmani Center is expected to create and support connections to departments throughout the University, building upon the foundation of the Pahlavi Fund established at Princeton in 1969 to promote understanding of Iranian society and culture.

The center also will serve as a point of outreach for the University, recruiting visiting scholars from many disciplines and supporting Iranian-American students as well as students from Iran and the Persian Gulf. It will sponsor conferences, lectures and concerts, and offer grants for faculty and student travel and study abroad. The center will be managed by a director who is a tenured professor of the University.


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