The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies in the University of Arizona's College of Social and Behavioral Sciences has received a new commitment of $1.5 million from Bettina B. and Kenneth A. Plevan, which will be combined with a previous gift of $500,000 to endow a chair in memory of their son Jeffrey B. Plevan.
Jeffrey Plevan, who graduated from the UA with a degree in Judaic studies in 2000, died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 2013 at the age of 36. He is remembered for his love of Judaism, Israel and the UA, as well as for his infectious, upbeat personality and an inner drive to overcome life's obstacles.
After graduating from the UA, he received a master's degree in Jewish communal service from Gratz College in Philadelphia and then began a career as a development officer at the Hunter College Hillel in New York. He also led the MetroCats, the New York City chapter of the UA Alumni Association.
His parents, Betsy and Ken, said their son also was a passionate supporter of Israel, spent time in that country on many occasions and had just returned from a weeklong mission there one week before he died.
The Plevans previously endowed the annual Jeffrey B. Plevan Memorial Lecture in Israel Studies at the UA. Past lecturers in this series include Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, and Dennis Ross, who served as a Middle East adviser to three U.S. presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The Plevans also support UA initiatives in the Disability Resource Center and the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Program.
With their new commitment, the Plevans are establishing the Jeffrey B. Plevan Chair in Israel Studies, which is the first endowed chair in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to be amplified by the state-funded Eminent Scholars Program, designed to help attract and retain leading scholars.
John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, also has committed funding to support this position, which will focus on research and educational programs related to modern Israel. "I was touched the first time I met Betsy and Ken. They so dearly loved Jeff, as did everyone else I've met who knew him," Jones said. "We are humbled that the Plevan family has chosen to honor him in this way."
"I am grateful to the Plevan family for their support, and also to the University for working with them to find such a meaningful way to honor their son's memory," said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. "That this gift qualifies for the Eminent Scholars Program means that it will grow faster, supporting Israel studies here at the University in perpetuity."
"We are all incredibly grateful to the Plevans for their generosity and inspired by their decision to honor and remember their son in this way," said UA President Robert C. Robbins. "By choosing to invest in the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, the Plevans are furthering the work of an outstanding program while also supporting one of their son's passions. I am very glad to know Jeffrey Plevan's legacy as a Wildcat will live on in this way."
"Ken and I hope that an Israel studies professorship will promote a climate of understanding and cooperation among the differing viewpoints on Middle East issues," Betsy Plevan said. "We have been very impressed with the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and are pleased to be helping the center expand its programs and enhance its commitment to academic excellence."
"We expect that the scholarship, teaching and outreach efforts of the person appointed to the Jeffrey B. Plevan Chair will have a transformative impact on the field of Israel studies and on the lives of our students and community constituents," said J. Edward Wright, director of the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies.
Wright noted that "everyone here loved Jeff, and we are deeply honored that the Plevan family has chosen to honor his memory through the lectureship and now the endowed chair that bear his name. Jeff's memory will forever be a blessing here, across the country and around the world."