Generous gift from Tandean Rustandy, MBA’07, endows chair in Global Christianity

A $5 million gift from Tandean Rustandy, MBA’07, has created an endowed professorship in the Divinity School.

The Tandean Rustandy Chair in Global Christianity will support a scholar who studies Christianity in the context of Asia, Africa, or South America and whose work will make these experiences more fully part of the story of Christianity by taking into account the influences of social location and perspective.

“We are grateful to Mr. Rustandy for this generous gift. The University of Chicago’s first president, William Rainey Harper, believed that a great research university should be engaged in the scholarly study of religion, preparing both scholars and clergy. This new professorship builds upon that tradition by expanding our scholarship in Christianity, as we deepen our research and teaching on emerging expressions of Christian theologies and practices in Asia, Africa, and South America, thanks to this remarkable gift,” said Laurie Zoloth, Dean of the Divinity School and the Margaret E. Burton Professor of Religion and Ethics.

“To live is to serve. In many religions, we are called to be stewards of this world, to serve not just those of the same religion, but to serve all people. The need for religious diversity and understanding is key to world harmony,” said Rustandy. “The Divinity School, with its scholarly religious inquiry, subjects all ideas to uncompromising standards of argument and evidence while training students to think and speak about religion. As a Christian in a majority Muslim nation, it is of vital importance to me that I fund this critical work.”

Rustandy is the founder of the Jakarta, Indonesia-based PT Arwana Citramulia Tbk, one of the best-performing ceramic tile manufacturing companies in the world. In addition to this gift, his support of the University of Chicago has included investments in the Booth School of Business to expand research and programming in social innovation and entrepreneurship via the school’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation.

An additional gift of $125,000 from Rustandy will support the Divinity School in presenting conferences and welcoming visiting scholars in global Christianity. The first of those conferences coincides with the gift announcement and is being held today in Swift Hall. Global Christianities: New Directions for the 21stCenturyis forging interdisciplinary conversation to reconsider approaches to the study of Christianity in the Middle East, South America, Africa, and Asia.

"Over the past several decades, Christianity’s center of gravity has been shifting, both demographically and normatively.  To understand it, therefore, requires both a broadened focus and a sense of how it interacts with a wide array of cultures.  This gift will help us do that,” said Kevin Hector, Associate Professor of Theology and of the Philosophy of Religions.  “In so doing, it will enrich our understanding not only of Christianity, but of the complex interactions among religions, cultures, geographies, and the like.  As such, it is truly hard to overstate the opportunities Mr. Rustandy’s generous gift will create."

The gift will also further engage faculty and students across UChicago in the intellectual life and community of the Divinity School, said Zoloth. “Many of our faculty are jointly appointed with departments across divisions and other schools. Our students take courses in other parts of the university, and students from many disciplines enroll in our offerings. We pursue new knowledge about the human phenomenon of religion, as viewed from the broadest possible range of perspectives. Mr. Rustandy, though his support, allows us to expand those connections.”