News / Toronto

U of T Scarborough receives money to start Tamil studies fellowship

Scarborough businessman has Sri Lankan roots and wants to make Tamil community proud of their heritage

A Toronto philanthropist has given U of T Scarborough $2 million to start a Tamil studies post-doctoral fellowship.

Torstar News Service

A Toronto philanthropist has given U of T Scarborough $2 million to start a Tamil studies post-doctoral fellowship.

A Scarborough businessman wants to see a centre of excellence in the Tamil diaspora community of Toronto and he’s putting his money right where his mouth is.

Ravi Gukathasan’s latest philanthropic act is a $2 million cheque to the University of Toronto Scarborough to support a post-doctoral fellowship in Tamil studies, various scholarships and digital archiving of Tamil history.

“I want this campus to be a star when it comes to the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, its culture, its language, its perspective in the world,” said the CEO of Scarborough-based company Digital Specialty Chemicals Ltd.

“The time of fighting is done, and I truly believe that our people need to be proud of our culture and our history.”

Long before he became a successful multimillion-dollar businessman, Gukathasan’s journey was full of hardships all too common for many Tamils. He grew up in northern Sri Lanka before his family moved to England in 1974. They later moved to Toronto and settled in Scarborough, and he was one of only two Tamil students attending Scarborough College.   

While the donation marks the single largest cash gift the campus has ever received, it’s not the first time Gukathasan has given to his alma mater. He previously sponsored a Tamil Studies Conference, supported regular public programming on Tamil subjects and worked with the campus library to enhance its Tamil-language collection.

As Canada marks its first Tamil Heritage Month this January, Gukathasam said the turmoil his native country went through is part of what inspires him to give back to the community.

“Had I stayed in Sri Lanka, I might be dead right now,” he said, noting supporting the Tamil studies is both a way to be thankful to Canada and help preserve the cultural heritage of his roots.

“I just hope other people also step forward to support this effort.”

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