Emory Report
October 29, 2007
Volume 60, Number 9

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October 29, 2007
Emory welcomes its newest faculty member

By kim urquhart

Emory’s newest professor says he won’t assign homework, but His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama gave several lessons that educated the heart and mind during his visit to Emory.

A vibrant ceremony on Oct. 22 celebrated the first university appointment accepted by the 1989 Nobel Peace Laureate and the spiritual and secular leader of the Tibetan people.

The Dalai Lama expressed genuine pleasure at his appointment as Emory Presidential Distinguished Professor, wondering aloud with glee how to begin his first lecture — an inaugural address on the concept of interdependence — and told his new colleagues and students that he was “a simple monk” who “felt rewarded” to be a professor at Emory.

That the feeling was mutual was evident from the moment the Dalai Lama entered the WoodPEC arena arm-and-arm with President Jim Wagner. He returned the audience’s smiles and waves, clasped hands and bows, and received warm greetings from representatives of the student body, staff, faculty and the Tibetan community. He even received an Emory I.D., making him a card-carrying member of the Emory community and eliciting a chuckle as he tucked it into the folds of his crimson and gold robe.

It was one of several moments that illustrated the Dalai Lama’s famous sense of humor and the embodiment of the message of happiness that he teaches. To the crowd’s delight, His Holiness at one point offered to hold the microphone for Wagner as he read the official letter of appointment. “I suspect many of you have not had the opportunity to be served in this way by His Holiness,” Wagner quipped.

The opportunity to count among the Emory faculty “a man whose spiritual authority and infectious influence speaks to persons of all faiths,” as Wagner described him, is the culmination of more than 15 years of work between Emory and the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, India, where Emory’s study abroad program is based.

“We celebrate the opportunity that this collaboration represents for courageous leadership in teaching, research, scholarship and service to the world,” said Wagner.

The Emory Tibet Partnership, founded in 1998 to meld the best of Western and Tibetan Buddhist intellectual traditions, provides for an exchange of knowledge between Emory scholars and those from the Tibetan culture that is leading to new realms of research and discovery.

The conjunction of the Western tradition that excels in exploring the external world and the Buddhist tradition which devoted thousands of years to the study of the internal one “will lead to new routes to knowledge,” said Emory College Dean Bobby Paul. “It is with great pride that I acknowledge that Emory is one of those places where that new synthesis will take place, and indeed is already taking place.”

Paul, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies and a scholar of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, helped develop the Emory-Tibet partnership with the Dalai Lama’s blessings. Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Emory lecturer, alum and director of the Emory-Tibet partnership, was also instrumental in laying the foundation for Emory’s extraordinary relationship with Tibetan Buddhist institutes of higher learning. The Dalai Lama’s installation as professor marked another milestone in the decades-long Emory-Tibet partnership.

As Presidential Distinguished Professor, the Dalai Lama will continue to provide private teaching sessions with students and faculty during Emory study-abroad programs in Dharamsala, as well as to provide opportunities for University community members to attend his annual teachings. He also will make periodic visits to Emory to participate in programs. A fellowship in the Dalai Lama’s name will be established to fund annual scholarships for Tibetan students attending Emory undergraduate and graduate schools.
His presence in the Emory community will contribute to fulfilling the University’s strategic goals, including bringing engaged scholars together to confront the human condition.

“We marvel at your diligent pursuit of knowledge, your investment in both basic human values and freedom, your commitment to resolving differences through understanding. Therefore we are genuinely honored and privileged that you are joining us as a faculty member in this great institution,” said Professor Nadine Kaslow in welcoming the Dalai Lama at the ceremony. “We look forward to continued intellectual collaborations and discourse and to receiving your empowering words and wisdom.”

The installation ceremony was one of several events in what Wagner called “a truly remarkable weekend on the Emory campus,” which began with the science faculty’s unveiling of a science curriculum tailored for the needs of the Tibetan monastic community and ended with an opportunity for the wider public to hear Emory’s newest professor speak about educating the heart and mind for universal responsibility.