$2 million donated for dialogue chair

March 09, 2006, volume 35, no. 5
By Erica Branda

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What role should Canada and NATO play in Afghanistan? How do we balance freedom of speech with cultural respect to minimize violent protests like those around the Prophet Mohammed cartoon controversy? Should we allow weapons in space?

SFU will soon become an international centre for debate and discussion on complex issues like these. Two new academic chairs will be recruited to promote and explore the role of international law and its interpretation in promoting or impeding peace, human rights and human security.

Jennifer Allen Simons announced at a signing ceremony on Feb. 24 that her foundation, The Simons Foundation, is donating $2 million to endow a visiting chair in dialogue on international law and human security. Her gift will be matched with $2 million from SFU's Burnaby Mountain endowment fund to create a second position - a resident chair in international law and human security. Visiting chair holders will spend up to one year at SFU's new school for international studies, teaching and raising public profile and debate on key international issues.

The resident chair will concentrate on teaching and research in the area as well as curriculum development. Together, they will lead an annual international conference on international law and human security at SFU's Morris J. Wosk centre for dialogue in downtown Vancouver.

Says Simons, "These chairs will add another dimension to the educational experience beyond book learning. Students and the community will be able to engage in dialogue with exemplars and practitioners and activists - those who have dedicated their lives to the cause of furthering international law and human rights.

"This dialogue and interaction will create opportunities for young people to embrace and entertain their own vision for a more humane world and to participate in the creation of new knowledge - new ways of furthering a humane life for all.

"Simon Fraser University, I believe, is an ideal university - flexible, dynamic and forward thinking - to be an intellectual centre to further and disseminate this education."

Simons is a well-known and highly regarded advocate for peace and disarmament, sitting on numerous national and international boards and committees. She received the first annual Canadian peace award for peace philanthropy in November 2000 and the commemorative medal for Queen Elizabeth II's golden jubilee in 2002 for her service in support of the global effort to eradicate landmines.

In 1999, she received an award for contribution to education by Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a House of Wisdom in the Nass Valley; and the anniversary jubilee medal award of highest merit for contribution to development of civil society by Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.

She has had a long relationship with SFU, participating first as a student, and later as associate and adjunct professor in the Institute for the Humanities, a member of the board of governors and a donor.

She established the Simons Foundation doctoral entrance fellowships endowment fund that awards $15,000 per year to gifted women scholars. She also set up the Simons Foundation humanities institute fund that provides approximately $60,000 a year to support the activities of the J.S. Woodsworth chair and the humanities institute. Her son, Jeffrey, established the Jennifer Allen Simons endowment fund in honour of her birthday. Each year this endowment funds a bursary to help support a student who is a single parent supporting a child.

Most recently, she established the Simons student citizenship program to promote and advance the understanding of citizenship issues and practices in Canada.

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