In the last four years, the Kuwaiti government has donated close to $5 million to the Elliott School of International Affairs and the Institute for Middle East Studies.
The Middle Eastern country first donated $3.34 million in 2005 to endow the chair of Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm, a GW alumnus who served as ambassador to Kuwait from 1991 until 1994. This was followed by another gift in January 2009 of $1.05 million.
Administrators say the gifts have allowed the Elliott School and the IMES to expand its Middle East offerings to students and faculty.
“As a University, we have a very strong academic reputation, a growing commitment to the academic study of the Middle East and a great upsurge in student interest,” said Nathan Brown, director of the IMES. “This is by far the best time to be a student interested in the Middle East at GW.”
Brown stressed that the donations were not given for political reasons.
“The issues of our curriculum did not come up and gifts did not come with any understandings or conditions,” he said.
Brown credited Gnehm with helping to establish the relationship after he returned to GW in 2004. GW awarded former Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, with an honorary degree in 2005 and hosted current Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah last fall.
With the most recent donation, Brown said he hopes to create new classes that cover Iranian politics and the Turkish language, and bring visiting scholars to campus.
Brown said the institute hopes to build on their current fundraising success to create a permanent basis for the academic study of the Middle East at GW and “build relationships with academic institutions in all the countries of the region.”
“We’d love to offer even more support for student travel, library material and language instruction,” Brown said. “I’d love to be able to make sure that all students interested in the Middle East have all the resources on campus we can reasonably provide – and have as many opportunities as possible to go to the region.”
Brown said the institute has partnered with the classics and semitic languages departments, other regional institutes in the Elliott School and the Judaic studies program at GW.
Graham Hough-Cornwell, a first-year master’s student at the Elliott School, said the donations have allowed for more ambitious programming.
“We’ve been able to have more speakers to campus and more events have been put on,” Hough-Cornwell said. “At other schools, programs are having to cut or stay the same in Middle East studies, but this gift has allowed students to be more ambitious in their projects and their language studies.”
Additionally, Gelman Library has recently established the Middle East and North Africa Resource Center with help from the IMES faculty.
Cathy Zeljak, director of global resources for the Gelman Library system, said the library has purchased critical primary documents and has partnered with IMES to fund a $100,000 endowment to ensure “ongoing support for [Middle East north Africa] collections and services,” in coordination with IMES.
The article originally said Kuwait’s January 2009 gift was for $1.5 million. It was, in fact, for $1.05 million.
In addition, the article originally said GW awarded Jaber III al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah with an honorary degree in 2005. The degree went to former Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
The article also said the University hosted Prime Minister Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah last fall. In fact, the University hosted Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
This article appeared in the April 30, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.