The donation from the private, Chicago-based Alphawood Foundation will advance the study and preservation of Buddhist and Hindu art in Southeast Asia.
Representing 28 per cent of Soas’ 2012-13 turnover, the donation will fund an ambitious academic programme. This will include the creation of three new fully endowed academic posts: the Hiram W. Woodward chair in Southeast Asian art; the David L. Snellgrove chair in Tibetan and Buddhist art; and a senior lectureship in curating and museology of Asian art.
Over 80 scholarships will be open to candidates from heritage organisations, museums, universities and government departments right across the region. And the gift means Soas itself will be able to expand through the redevelopment of the north wing of Senate House, the landmark 1930s University of London building standing adjacent to it.
Alphawood founder Fred Eychaner, himself an alumnus of Soas’ postgraduate diploma in Asian art, praised the institution as “a very special learning and research environment where West meets East”.
“While Soas is firmly rooted in London,” he went on, “it has always been outward-looking and seeks to make an impact in the regions it studies. We intend our gift to have its greatest effect in Southeast Asia – and over time, Soas graduates from the programmes we create today will take their scholarship and talents to the museums, universities, galleries and other institutions of that region.”