Gift of $2.2 Million Creates Endowed Chair for the Study of Atheism, Humanism, and Secular Ethics at the University of Miami

Coral Gables, FL (May 23, 2016) – The University of Miami has received a gift of $2.2 million to establish a permanent endowment and enable the creation of the Appignani Foundation Chair for the Study of Atheism, Humanism, and Secular Ethics in the College of Arts & Sciences. The generous gift, made possible by entrepreneur Louis J. Appignani, will propel new interdisciplinary courses, scholarship, and research concerning the philosophical underpinnings, ethical status, and implications of atheism, as well as its historical and cultural significance.

The new chair will be an interdisciplinary appointment held by a distinguished scholar whose research and interests include the study of atheism – understood, for purposes of this gift, as a philosophical approach that emphasizes the methods and techniques of science, logic, and reason in dealing with questions of knowledge, ethics, politics, and social policy.  The new chair will also offer annually a minimum of one course on the history, philosophy, or influence of atheism.

"The topics of naturalistic ethics and arguments for and against theism have been part of Western education for most of its history.  At the University of Miami -- as in most other American universities --- these questions are examined in courses regularly offered by multiple academic departments. This new position will enhance UM's multidisciplinary approach to these longstanding and important subjects.  We are most grateful for it,” said UM Executive Vice President and Provost Tom LeBlanc, who added that a multidepartmental faculty committee will search for the chair’s first incumbent. 

Appignani’s gift fuels UM President Julio Frenk’s bold initiative to recruit 100 talents by the University’s centennial.

The Appignani Foundation Lectures held at the University of Miami welcomed distinguished philosophers and scholars including the noted biologist and humanist Richard Dawkins, Frances Kamm of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Jon Elster, Robert K. Merton Professor of the Social Sciences at Columbia University. 

Appignani, who resides in South Florida, is an avid supporter of the Richard Dawkins Foundation. He also founded the Appignani Humanist Legal Center in Washington, D.C., a project of the American Humanist Association that uses qualified humanist-minded attorneys to pursue cases that are violations of the law as well as of humanist principles of religious liberty, freedom, and civil rights. He will also be endowing another chair to UM through a bequest in his estate plans, The Appignani Foundation Bertrand Russell Chair in Philosophy.

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The College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) at the University of Miami (UM) is home to more than 40% of the undergraduate class at UM. A&S is committed to the enduring values of interdisciplinary liberal arts education at the undergraduate and graduate level. Our mission is to create an intellectual environment that enhances individual growth and supports scholarly and research activities that amplify human knowledge. Home to 20 departments and more than 15 programs, from the Center for the Humanities to the Miami Institute for the Americas, the College offers 39 majors, 45 minors, and 13 research facilities. For more information, please visit us at www.as.miami.edu. Connect with UM’s Arts & Sciences on Facebook or Twitter, @UMCAS.

May 23, 2016