UC Davis receives $1.5 million to advance study of Jainism

Mohini Jain (Photo: U.C. Davis)

Mohini Jain, president and founder of the Mohini Jain Family Foundation, has donated $1.5 million to the University of California, Davis, to advance the study of Jainism, considered one of the world’s most revered and ancient philosophies.

The gift will establish the Mohini Jain Presidential Chair for Jain Studies in the Department of Religious Studies as part of the universtity’s study of Indian religions and the interdisciplinary field of South Asia studies broadly, a UC Davis press release said.

“Jainism is a very ancient and important religion and philosophy that champions truth, nonviolence and a multiplicity of viewpoints,” Jain said. “In our multicultural, global world, it is important to escape boxed-in points of view,” she said, adding that she is hopeful the impact of the chair at UC Davis will be a broadening of minds and a renewed focus on dialogue and peace.

The chair will be awarded to a scholar with a well-established record for creative, exceptional and interdisciplinary research on Jainism. As a member of the religious studies department, the holder of the chair will help develop curriculum in Jain studies, offer graduate courses in Jainism, pursue a vigorous research agenda, give public lectures, and contribute to the development of a religions of India and South Asia studies initiative at UC Davis by participating in community outreach, the university said.

“This gift will further diversify and strengthen our expertise in world religions and is another step toward UC Davis serving as a leader in India religions and Asia studies globally,” said Archana Venkatesan, chair of the religious studies department and associate professor of religious studies and comparative literature.

Jain has an extensive background in education and philanthropy. She had a successful career as a high school science teacher for 18 years, retiring from Davis Senior High School in 2008. Since then, she has been a founding member of the Tiffany Circle of the American Red Cross Yolo County Chapter and on the Board of Advisors for the Davis Schools Foundation, Yolo Community Foundation, and India Association of Davis.

In 2001, she started the Mohini Jain Family Foundation, which provides yearly grants for education.

Additionally, she has served on the Board of Directors for Optivision, a high-tech Silicon Valley company. She is a trustee on the UC Davis Foundation Board and a member of the foundation’s executive committee.

Mohini holds a Master’s degree in Botany from University of Delhi, and a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology from SUNY Buffalo. She has been a resident of Davis for the past 33 years and has three children.