What does a chair mean?
An endowed chair is an academic unit under a specific department in an institution of higher education to teach and research, with the financial support of donors and it lasts indefinitely.
What is Tamil Chair, Inc.?
Harvard University has accepted a proposal to set up a “Sangam Tamil Chair” in the Department of South Asian Studies with the focus being on Tamil Sangam Literature and all Tamil literature influenced by it. Tamil Chair Inc. is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization set up specifically to collect funds for the establishment of the Tamil Chair. Donations given to Tamil Chair, Inc. are tax deductible.
What is the need for a Tamil Chair?
Tamil language has ancient literature dating back to around 300 B.C. Tamil is one of the classical languages of the world, with Greek, Sanskrit, Latin, Hebrew, Persian, and Chinese being the others. The Tamil language has had a continuous and vibrant literary history which continues to this day. Tamil is the 20th most commonly-spoken language (by 80 million people) in the world. Today, Tamil is spoken in many countries of the world.

Tamil literature is a vast field and there are many areas which need to be researched. Tamil needs to be taught at institutions where other classical languages of the world are taught. Also, there are many Tamils from all over the world who attend Harvard University. They had expressed an interest to learn Tamil and so it is taught there at a basic level.

It is a matter of prestige for the Tamil community to set up a Tamil chair at the oldest and most reputed academic institution in the United States. It will also help produce Tamil scholars who will be trained in modern research methodologies.

For other classical languages, there is research and progressive work done at various international academic centers. It is quite urgent and highly imperative that the same attention be given to the Tamil language. It will enhance the chances for its continual use and growth, and also gain global recognition.

This chair at Harvard could become the guiding light for other institutions that are engaged in Tamil studies and research.
Is Sangam literature the only Tamil that will be taught?
No. Sangam literature and other Tamil literature will be taught. Since Sangam literature is the basis of all later literature including our bhakthi literature, all related literature will also be taught.
Why at Harvard?
Harvard University, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, established in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and is considered as one of the celebrated citadels of Higher Education in the world. It has produced many U.S. presidents, noble prize winners and celebrated scholars.

Representing many different countries, languages, and research interests, Harvard functions as a premier academic hub promoting great diversity and intellectual vitality. Harvard has many of the best scholars in the world in its teaching faculty.

Being a teaching and research university, Harvard provides great opportunities for Tamil students, scholars and researchers.
Are students interested in learning Tamil at Harvard?
Yes. There are currently 29 students who are taught Tamil by Mr. Jonathan Ripley, who was trained by Dr. Norman Cutler, University of Chicago. Mr. Ripley lived in Tamil Nadu for 2.5 years. These students approached Harvard University requesting Tamil studies and the university hired Mr. Ripley as a preceptor to teach Tamil. Currently, there is not a professorship for Tamil. About half a million Tamils live in North America and Harvard University has a few hundred Tamil students. There are about 50 accredited Tamil schools in the U.S. and many students will take up Tamil studies at a higher level if offered.
How long will Harvard teach Tamil?
Once the Chair is endowed, Tamil will be taught there indefinitely.
Who is spearheading this fundraising effort?
Dr. S.T. Sambandam and Dr.V. Janakiraman are the two seed donors who have made generous donations. They are spearheading this effort. They approached Harvard University and obtained approval in July 2015 to establish a Tamil chair.

Dr. Janakiraman (hails from Vadakandam, Thiruvarur) is a practicing Cardiologist in Pennsylvania and has been in US since 1975.

Dr. Sambandam (hails from Thirukudanthai, Thanjavur) is an Oncologist residing in Cranston, Rhode Island and has been in US since 1971.

Mrs. Vaidehi Herbert, has translated the 18 Sangam books, 7 PathinenKeezhKanakku books, Muthollaayiram and Paandikovai to English. She has also translated Tagore's Gitanjali to Tamil. She lit the fire in Dr. Janakiraman. At her request, Mrs. Mallika Janakiraman, Dr. Janakiraman, Mrs. Vijayalakshmi Sambandam and Dr. Sambandam decided to set up a chair at Harvard.
What is the recruitment process and timeline?
The total commitment to Harvard for setting up the Tamil Chair is six million U.S dollars. Upon receipt of the amount, Harvard will begin the search for the most qualified Tamil scholar to assume the professorship. Harvard will choose a proven scholar who has taught, researched and published in academic journals.
How can you help in this historic effort?
Both Dr. S.T. Sambandam and Dr.V. Janakiraman have made the seed contributions of $500,000 each. Many others have made contributions. The balance of the amount needs to be raised.

Your direct donation to Harvard is eligible for tax-deduction in the US and in Canada. Your donation to Tamil Chair, Inc. is eligible for tax deduction in the U.S. Please help us in this effort. Encourage your friends and family to join us in setting up this chair. Some employers match employee contribution. Please check with your company and donate. By being part of this great effort, you will become a part of the Tamil history. You can send your contributions by one of the options in the ‘DONATE’ page.
Why are Harvard University and Tamil Chair Inc. requesting donations?
It is a matter of preference and convenience to the donor. You can pay directly to Harvard University or to Tamil Chair Inc. Should you mail a check to Harvard University, please attach a note stating that it is for the Tamil Chair. Also let us know about it so that we can make sure that your funds are designated for the Tamil chair. Should you decide to issue a check to Harvard University, we encourage you to please mail the check to us. We will log the information and then mail your check to Harvard. This process will make sure that your donation will safely reach the Tamil Chair fund. If you want to donate directly to Tamil Chair, please mail the check to Mr. Kumar Kumarappan.
Will 100% of donated amounts given to Tamil Chair, Inc. go to Harvard University?
Yes. 100% of your donations will go to Harvard University for the Tamil chair. Tamil Chair Inc. is run by volunteer board members who bear the operational costs.

Please note that if you donate through a credit card, Paypal or Minkasu there is a transaction fee which gets deducted from the total amount. Tamil Chair will get the amount minus the transaction cost.