The College of Idaho will fill a new, fully endowed chair in Judaic studies – the first of its kind in the Intermountain West – thanks to the successful completion of a $2.2 million fundraising initiative.

A $400,000 gift from alumnus Ray Neilsen pushed the initiative to its fundraising goal, setting the stage for the new chair and an associated lecture series to promote greater understanding of Jewish traditions, culture and philosophy in Idaho and the West. The endowed chair will be named the Howard Berger-Ray Neilsen Chair in Judaic Studies in honor of Neilsen and the longtime C of I history professor who was an influential mentor to him.

In addition to Neilsen’s most recent gift, the College also received a combined $350,000 gift from Neilsen and the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation in January 2012. The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a $500,000 matching grant for the chair in 2010, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation provided $250,000 in 2011 and numerous other alumni and friends have supported the initiative.

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