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Sumit Ganguly
India Studies Program

Jocelyn Bowie
College of Arts and Sciences

Last modified: Friday, February 18, 2011

Dhars' gift renames India Studies Program at Indiana University

Feb. 18, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- David Zaret, interim dean of the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences, announced today that the India Studies Program will now be called the Madhusudan and Kiran C. Dhar India Studies Program. The new name honoring the Dhars is the result of a significant endowment gift provided by their son, Dr. Sisir Dhar, and his wife, Heather Dhar. Dr. Dhar is a retired nephrologist; he and his wife lived for many years in Terre Haute.

Dr. and Mrs. Dhar have been involved with the IU India Studies Program for years. "Our daughter studied at IU in Bloomington, and that is when we first became interested in the university," Dr. Dhar said. "It is one of the few programs in the U.S. dedicated to the study of Indian civilization and modern India, and India's relationship to the U.S. My parents were simple people, brought up in an Indian village, with deep regard for Indian culture and education. My hope is that the program will fill the gap of understanding between India, the USA and the world."

Dr. Sisir and Heather Dhar

Dr. Sisir Dhar and Heather Dhar

Print-Quality Photo

Madhusudan Dhar and Kiran Bala Dhar (née Chowdhury), were born in different rural villages in Chittagong, Bengal, British India, now Bangladesh. Madhusudan Dhar died when Sisir was only 2 years old. During the 1947 War of Partition that preceded the establishment of the modern states of India and Pakistan, the remaining young family was separated; Kiran Dhar died in Bangladesh while Sisir and his three siblings were staying with family in West Bengal. Sisir was 7 at the time; he and his siblings were brought up by their uncles and aunts in India and Bangladesh.

After completing medical school in India, Sisir came to the U.S. in 1972 to do a nephrology fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago. He and Heather, a nurse, met while they were both working on a medical teaching ward in a Canadian hospital. In 1978, Dr. Dhar joined the medical staff of Union Hospital in Terre Haute. He started the hospital's dialysis unit and served as its director.

"My husband's father was a teacher in the local village and his mother was a homemaker with an intense interest in old Indian literature," Mrs. Dhar said. "Sisir was so young that he has no personal memory of either of them. His aunts and uncles always told him that his parents always stressed higher education."

"We are enormously grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Dhar for this generous gift," said Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson. "The Dhars have lived their lives in a way that honors the memories and aspirations conveyed through their family. Through perseverance and strength, Dr. Dhar has reached a position in life that now enables him to honor his parents in this additional way, through a program that furthers Madhusudan and Kiran Dhar's deep interests in education and culture. If they could see the success their son has achieved in the United States, and his dedication to furthering international understanding of their home country, his parents would undoubtedly be extremely proud."

David Zaret, interim dean of the IU College of Arts and Sciences, said, "By all accounts Dr. Dhar's father was an excellent student. His mother was largely self-taught. She studied the Mahabharata, Ramayana and other Indian classics, committing long passages to memory. Dr. Dhar tells us that his family always encouraged him and his siblings to seek higher education. Given his parents' commitment to the importance of higher education, it is especially fitting that the Dhars have chosen to honor them in this fashion. The College is deeply appreciative of their vision and their generosity."

The College of Arts and Sciences will officially unveil the program's new name at a celebration on Friday, April 1, in conjunction with a symposium marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, the only Indian to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

For more information, contact Sumit Ganguly, director of the India Studies Program and Rabindranath Tagore Professor of Indian Cultures and Civilizations, at 812-855-5798,; or Jocelyn Bowie with the College of Arts and Sciences, 812-855-5265,