For many years Anne C. Klein, professor of Buddhist Thought and Contemplative Studies at Houston’s Rice University, was the only faculty member who taught Tibetan, as well as the only one who focused on Buddhism for both graduate and undergraduate students. Although there was consistent student interest in her Tibetan Language and Culture classes, because of her teaching and other obligations, until recently Professor Klein was able to offer the classes to only one group of students every three or four years. In the autumn of 2011, at the request of Prof. Klein, Khyentse Foundation agreed to fund graduate student Elizabeth A. Wallett to teach three consecutive semester-long courses in Tibetan. This has made Rice, which has a collection of more than 700 volumes in Tibetan, a university where students can study Tibetan with continuous, expert support.
In 2012, the GeoFamily Foundation expressed interest in supporting a KF project. We discussed a few possibilities, and they decided to give KF a grant specifically to support the Rice project (a “restricted” or “project-based” grant). KF is now administering the Rice project with funds from the GeoFamily grant.
The GeoFamily Foundation, which was founded in 2010, began giving grants in 2012 and has so far focused on the themes of environmental sustainability, social justice (particularly for women), and educational programs. Melissa Giovale, a member of the foundation’s grant committee, was impressed by Khyentse Foundation’s efforts to strengthen Rice University’s Tibetan language program and was glad that GeoFamily Foundation was offered the opportunity to participate. “I strongly believe that the Tibetan culture has a lot to offer our world, and supporting language programs at universities will give a variety of people a way to understand Tibetan Buddhism and culture,” said Giovale.
Establishing a sustained Tibetan language program at Rice University has many advantages. According to Prof. Klein, “Interested undergraduate students benefit, the graduate program at Rice is strengthened, and, by catching smart and enthusiastic students young, the future study of Tibetan texts is enriched.” Klein was a participant in “Translating the Words of the Buddha,” the 2009 KF conference that conceived 84000. At least one of her former students of Tibetan has become a translator, and several others have gone on to related graduate study. Prof. Klein says, “They and the students KF makes possible will, hopefully, make significant contributions over the coming decades.”
While Prof. Klein fulfilled her obligations as a Fellow at Rice’s Humanities Research Center in the Spring of 2012, Wallet taught a class of ten students and supplied learning materials that she created for the class to two additional students. One of those students studied at home, the other spent three months at a Bön monastery, and both went on to do well in Intermediate Tibetan. In the fall of 2012, Wallett taught beginning Tibetan to a new group of students, allowing Prof. Klein to work with advanced undergraduates and incoming graduate students.
Top Photo: Seon Gong, Dandan Liu, Wenfei Wei, Anne Klein, Matthew Vale (not pictured: Anne Parker, James Kerwin
Bottom Photo: Navtej Dhaliwal, Thomas Plackemeier, Elodie Graham, Elizabeth Wallett, Scott Carlsten. (Not pictured is Kevin Lin)