Georgetown University announced yesterday that the government of Libya has committed $750,000 to endow a new professorial chair at the university's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.
The Libyan money represents the largest single contribution thus far to the center, which was launched two years ago after Middle East and African oil-producing states began amassing huge revenues and drafting massive domestic development plans that drew new attention to the Arab world.
Michael C. Hudson, the center's executive director, voiced hope that Georgetown also could arrange for some faculty and student exchanges and possibly other ties with Libyan universities.
Libya's gift, announced by the Rev. Timothy S. Healy, S.J., president of Georgetown, includes an immediate outlay of $150,000 and later installments totaling $600,000 over the next four years. The chair supported by income from this endowment will be named for Umar Al-Mukhtar, a national hero who fought for Libyan independence from Italy and died in 1931.
The chair's first occupant will be Hisham Sharabi, a onetime history teacher at Georgetown. He already is teaching a course at the center on the social development and modernization of the Arab world.
The Rev. Aloysius P. Kelly, S.J., Georgetown's executive vice president for academic affairs, said the Libyan gift "contributes to the fulfillment of the main purpose of the center . . . which is to increase knowledge of the Arab world in the United States."
While Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi has long been a political hotspur in the international arena, center director Hudson stressed that no conditions were attached to the gift regarding who could occupy the chair or what the chosen professor could teach.
"We don't mix politics and education," Hudson said.
The center, winding up its second academic year, has been offering graduate and undergraduate courses plus seminars, symposiums, lectures, films and other activities. Students can earn a certificate in Arab studies, and Hudson said a proposed master's degree program awaits final university approval.
Previous funds have come from Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as small sums from Mobil Oil Co., Texaco, Chase Manhattan Bank, Citibank and the U.S. government.