Four students at three different universities are the first recipients of the annual KF Award for Excellence in Buddhist Studies. The award, initiated by KF advisor Professor Peter Skilling, recognizes distinction in Buddhist studies, especially expertise in the classical languages of Buddhist traditions. Recipients are chosen by their department faculty and are honored at a departmental ceremony.

Four universities have been selected to start off the program: the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Sydney in Australia, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Hamburg in Germany. KF hopes to extend the program to more centers of excellence in the future.

The first recipient of the US$1,000 award was Samantha Ann Catella of UC Berkeley on March 11, 2010. With a major in molecular environmental biology and a minor in Buddhist studies, Samantha says, “I want to pursue a career in conservation biology using ecology to understand natural systems in order to inform effective management plans. Eventually, if things go my way, I hope to do work of this nature in Tibet or thereabouts.”

At the University of Sydney, the recipient of the award was Blair Silverlock, who was recognized for his overall achievements in Buddhist studies, Sanskrit, and Pali throughout his undergraduate studies. Blair’s honours thesis consisted of an edition, translation, and study of the Bodha-sutra found in a newly discovered Sanskrit manuscript of the canonical Dirghagama “Long Discourses of the Buddha.” He is now undertaking a PhD at the University of Sydney, where his research will focus on Buddhist texts written in the Kharosthi script and Gandhari language that date to the 2nd century AD.

Rachel Epstein and Miki Morita received their awards at a ceremonial dinner at the University of Pennsylvania on April 25. The dinner was attended by the entire Religious Studies faculty as well as undergraduate and graduate students in Buddhist Studies.

Left: Miki Morita and Rachel Epstein receive KF awards at the University of Pennsylvania.
Right: Samantha Catella, First recipient of the KF Award at UC Berkeley