Campaign for University of Toronto Scarborough Chair in Tamil Studies reaches $3M goal


Tamil Canadians have raised the $3 million needed to start a Tamil Studies Chair at University of Toronto Scarborough, a “historical feat” and a first for Canada, organizers announced on Monday, April 26.

Reaching the fundraising goal means the U of T can search for a professor and formalize details of the endowment, which will sustain Tamil language classes and research.

A $250,000-gift from the SJV and EJ Chelvanayakam Charitable Foundation — a charity named for a Tamil politician, Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam, “known as the Eelam Gandhi” in Sri Lanka — let the fundraising reach its goal, Sivan Ilangko, president of the Canadian Tamil Congress, said Monday.

“That took us to the finish line,” he said.

Greater Toronto is home to the largest Tamil community outside of India or Sri Lanka. Tamil Chair Inc. and the Congress launched their campaign in June 2018, taking in $700,000 in donations and pledges the first day.

There have been more than 3,800 donations in all, including an anonymous $500,000 gift and many smaller contributions from village and school associations.

As the pandemic hit, the campaign hosted virtual events — performances by musicians and orators — that turned out to have global reach, Ilangko said.

In a statement, Wisdom Tettey, UTSC’s principal and a U of T vice-president, called the foundation’s gift “incredibly generous,” and said it “helps to strengthen Tamil Studies at UTSC,” and “facilitate more extensive engagement with Tamil culture and communities.”