The University of Arizona anthropology department has announced that they will receive a record $2 million donation, the largest individual donation ever given to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
John Olsen, head of the anthropology department, will announce the gift to department faculty and staff at 2 p.m.
The pledge was made from the Salus Mundi Foundation, which is headed by A. Richard Diebold Jr., a former professor in the UA anthropology department from 1974-1992.
The anthropology department will establish an endowment in the amount of $1.8 million at the University of Arizona Foundation for student fellowships and to aid in faculty recruitment and retention, in part through the establishment and partial support of Foci of Excellence. The additional $200,000 will benefit student and faculty travel, promote staff development and maintain and update computer technology and information resources.
Recruiting and retaining top-notch undergraduate and graduate students in the face of dwindling financial support are two of the anthropology department's greatest challenges. Despite their ranking as one of the five best anthropology departments in the nation, the UA anthropology department is consistently unsuccessful in drawing the top five or six potential graduate admissions candidates, due generally to the inability to match the financial incentives offered by peer institutions. The Salus Mundi Foundation gift will expand the number of fellowships and scholarship opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students at the UA.
The donation also will provide faculty with seed money and, in some cases, more substantial support for initiating and expanding a wide range of research projects in the field and in the laboratory.
One way in which UA anthropology seeks to distinguish itself from its better-funded peers is through the development of Foci of Excellence that build on the strengths already found in the department. One existing core department strength that will be further developed by the donation is the Focus of Excellence in anthropological linguistics. Other potential Foci of Excellence to be supported in part by the endowment include archaeology, biological anthropology and sociocultural anthropology.
"We are thrilled and extremely grateful to Richard Diebold and the Salus Mundi Foundation for this generous pledge," Olsen said. "With the current budget situation, it is difficult to attract and retain the best students and faculty. This $2 million donation will allow us to continue to be one of the top anthropology departments in the country."