The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona has received a new commitment of $1.5 million from Bettina B. and Kenneth A. Plevan, which will be combined with a previous gift of $500,000 to endow a chair in memory of their son Jeffrey B. Plevan.
Plevan, who graduated from the UA with a degree in Judaic studies in 2000, died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 2013 at the age of 36. He is remembered for his love of Judaism, Israel and the UA, as well as for his upbeat personality and an inner drive to overcome life’s obstacles.
He received a master’s degree in Jewish communal service from Gratz College in Philadelphia and began a career as a development officer at the Hunter College Hillel in New York. He also led the MetroCats, the New York City chapter of the UA Alumni Association. His parents said Plevan had just returned from a weeklong mission to Israel one week before he died.
The Jeffrey B. Plevan Chair in Israel Studies is the first endowed chair in the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to be amplified by the state-funded Eminent Scholars Program, designed to help attract and retain leading scholars.
“We expect that the scholarship, teaching and outreach efforts of the person appointed to the Jeffrey B. Plevan Chair will have a transformative impact on the field of Israel studies and on the lives of our students and community constituents,” said J. Edward Wright, director of the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies.
John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, also has committed funding to support this position, which will focus on research and educational programs related to modern Israel.
“Ken and I hope that an Israel studies professorship will promote a climate of understanding and cooperation among the differing viewpoints on Middle East issues,” said Betsy Plevan. “We have been very impressed with the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and are pleased to be helping the center expand its programs and enhance its commitment to academic excellence.”
“I am grateful to the Plevan family for their support, and also to the university for working with them to find such a meaningful way to honor their son’s memory,” said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. “That this gift qualifies for the Eminent Scholars Program means that it will grow faster, supporting Israel studies here at the university in perpetuity.”
“By choosing to invest in the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins, “the Plevans are furthering the work of an outstanding program while also supporting one of their son’s passions. I am very glad to know Jeffrey Plevan’s legacy as a Wildcat will live on in this way.”
The Plevans previously endowed the annual Jeffrey B. Plevan Memorial Lecture in Israel Studies at the UA. Past lecturers included Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, and Dennis Ross, who served as a Middle East adviser to three U.S. presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The Plevans also support UA initiatives in the Disability Resource Center and the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Program.
“Everyone here loved Jeff,” said Wright, “and we are deeply honored that the Plevan family has chosen to honor his memory through the lectureship and now the endowed chair that bear his name. Jeff’s memory will forever be a blessing here, across the country and around the world.”