Oct. 12, 2016—A generous new gift from Robert Donia and Jane Ritter will create the Donia Human Rights Center, further expanding possibilities for the Human Rights Program in the future by providing support for activities, fellowships, scholarships, and research projects for students and faculty across all disciplines.

“With this generous donation, the Human Rights Program will be able to organize more events and embark on various ventures to stimulate informed conversations about important human rights issues on our campus, in our local community, and on the national and international stages,” says Professor Kiyoteru Tsutsui, the director of the Human Rights Program. “We will be able to promote a deeper understanding about the human-rights challenges that we face in the contemporary world and foster an intellectual environment conducive to high-quality research on human rights. We are deeply indebted to Bob and Jane for enabling us to pursue these goals.”

Donia, a scholar and historian of the region of the former Yugoslavia and a human-rights advocate, has long supported the Human Rights Program at U-M, which seeks to foster intellectual exchange on issues around human rights among scholars, practitioners, students, and the broader public. For his contributions, Donia was recently celebrated at the program’s annual distinguished lecture on October 11, given by Kathryn Sikkink, a professor of human rights policy at Harvard University.

Donia has also supported other human-rights research efforts at Michigan, previously establishing the Fred Cuny Professorship in the History of Human Rights in the Department of History, a position currently held by Professor Pamela Ballinger.

“In meeting the challenge of human rights since the turn of the 21st century, whether in scholarship, politics, public policy, or international justice, Bob Donia has been a beacon of patient, constructive, and visionary labor,” says Professor Geoff Eley, who served as chair of the Department of History at the time the Cuny Professorship was created.

“The endowment of the Fred Cuny Chair in the History of Human Rights attests not only to Bob Donia’s exceptional generosity, but also to his astute sense of History’s relevance in the face of the changing terrains of world conflict and their impact on human beings,” adds Kathleen Canning, chair of the Department of History. “Bob’s gift has inspired critical historical inquiry, scholarly and public engagement, and a new and innovative curriculum on a topic that is definitive of the 21st century.”

Donia hopes that this new gift will help facilitate more cross-campus connections for faculty working in the human-rights field, and to inspire even more students to enter into human-rights work.

“The academy is able to find ways to be more effective in human-rights work, to design and implement new programs, and to be constructive critics of the current work being done in the world,” says Donia. “I’m happy to give faculty resources and trust that they’ll know how to use them effectively and for purposes that will ultimately benefit the educational mission of the University.”