UCLA announced Monday that its Humanities Building will be renamed Renee and David Kaplan Hall in recognition of a $25 million gift spearheaded by the scholars’ son to support the university’s philosophy department and provide seed funding to create a planned $15 million endowment to provide financial support for graduate students in the humanities division.
It’s the biggest gift that the UCLA College humanities division has ever received and one of the largest-ever gifts to any university philosophy department, according to UCLA.
Jordan Kaplan, his wife, Christine, and his longtime business partner, Ken Panzer, made the gift in honor of his parents, both of whom have been UCLA faculty members for almost 60 years — and to recognize his father’s contributions to the study of philosophy.
“This extraordinary gift signals a new era for the humanities at UCLA and, in particular, for philosophy,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “It’s more important than ever to instill in our students the philosophical perspective that helps make sense of today’s complex societal challenges.”
Jordan Kaplan is the CEO and president of Douglas Emmett Inc., a real estate investment trust. His father is a renowned scholar of philosophical logic and the philosophy of language, and Renee Kaplan was a clinical professor of psychology and the director of training at UCLA Student Psychological Services. Both earned doctorates at UCLA.
“We are proud to participate in UCLA’s Centennial Campaign and be able to meaningfully support Humanities and Philosophy, areas of study that we feel are particularly important now to the health of our modern society,” Jordan Kaplan said. “Our hope is that this gift will encourage others to recognize the importance of these departments and join us in providing them with very much needed support.”
The gift, the second-largest made to the UCLA College during the ongoing Centennial Campaign for UCLA, comes two years after Renee, David, Jordan and Christine Kaplan donated funds to establish the Presidential Professor of Philosophy endowed chair.
The study of philosophy has been a cornerstone of the humanities at UCLA since the campus’ founding in 1919. An endowed chair in philosophy that was established in 1928 was the first in UCLA’s history.
“This gift will help make our department of philosophy the bellwether for departments of its kind around the world,” said David Schaberg, dean of the humanities division. “Especially valuable is the opportunity to build a $15 million endowment for graduate students in the humanities on the basis of the generous matching fund the gift creates.”
Professor Seana Shiffrin, chair of the philosophy department, said the gift will be transformative for its future.
“Philosophical issues touch on every aspect of life — including issues about what sort of creatures we are and could become, what we can know of ourselves and others, how we should treat one another, whether we are capable of forming a better society and what that would look like, and the significance of our mortality,” she said. “A philosophy education introduces students to captivating ideas and perennial questions while imparting crucial skills of analysis, argumentation, clarity and precision. In its capacity both to stimulate and to discipline the imagination, training in philosophy empowers students to enter any career, while enriching their entire lives by opening up new avenues of thought and fresh possibilities for living.”
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