On Monday 19 March 2018, the Faculty of Oriental Studies hosted a celebration to mark the renaming of the Oriental Institute’s Faculty Room as the Spalding Room, in honour of the distinguished philanthropist H.N. Spalding (1877-1953).
Thanks to generous gifts from H.N. Spalding and his wife Nellie (1876−1957), the Spalding Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics, currently held by Professor Diwakar Nath Acharya, was established at Oxford University in 1936 and endowed in 1949. H.N. Spalding’s vision of an ‘Asia House’ in Oxford was a catalyst for the creation of the present-day Oriental Institute, and the relationship with the Spalding family continues to this day: The Faculty of Oriental Studies is delighted to announce that Dr Anne Spalding, the granddaughter of H.N. and Nellie Spalding and Chair of the Spalding Trust until last year, has given a very generous donation to the Faculty in order to renew the original endowment of the Spalding Chair made by her grandparents.
Dr Anne Spalding and Professor Diwakar Acharya
The Faculty was honoured to host Dr Anne Spalding, her sister and brother-in-law Sue and Mark Luboff, Anne and Sue’s cousin Jeanie Moyo, and her son Daniel Moyo at the ceremony. As the Spalding Chair’s first incumbent was the distinguished philosopher and statesman Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who become the first Vice President and second President of India (and in whose memory Teachers’ Day is celebrated in India on his birthday, 5 September), it held special significance that we were also able to welcome Dr Aseem Vohra, representative of the High Commissioner of India, on this occasion.
Professor Mark Smith, Chair of the Faculty Board of Oriental Studies, began the ceremony by talking about H.N. Spalding; how he wished to promote awareness of the contribution made by the great civilisations of Asia to the world’s cultural heritage and facilitate and encourage comparative study between the religions and ethical systems of the East and West. It was his vision to establish a centre where those who studied the different peoples and cultures of Asia could come together in a setting which promoted dialogue and the exchange of ideas. To show the clarity of his vision for this centre, a plan of ‘Asia House’ as he conceived it now hangs in the Spalding Room.
Professor Smith concluded by thanking Dr Spalding for her wonderful benefaction on behalf of the entire Faculty Board. He noted that doing research with her and Mary-Louise Aitken, the Faculty's Strategic Funding Consultant, in the University Archives to uncover more about H.N. Spalding’s work has been a highlight of his time as Faculty Board Chair, and said of the renaming of the Faculty Room:
“The room in which we now stand is the hub of the Oriental Institute, the most important space in the building. It is where the Faculty Board and other major Faculty committees meet, the room in which all key decisions affecting the future of the Faculty are made. It is also a place where classes are held, and seminars take place, a venue which brings together colleagues from the many diverse areas of the Faculty to share expertise and discuss their research with one another. It is entirely fitting that, following today’s renaming ceremony, at Oxford, as at Durham, the Spalding name will be permanently attached to a room devoted to scholarly dialogue and the exchange of ideas.”
Mary-Louise then read out a statement from Professor Karen O’Brien, Head of the Humanities Division, who could not attend the event due to prior commitments. Professor O’Brien thanked Dr Spalding warmly for her generous gift to the Faculty, and presented her with a volume of ‘Marks of Genius’; an illustrated book of treasures, following the 2015 exhibition at the Bodleian Library.
Professor Smith and Dr Spalding then unveiled a plaque in honour of H.N. Spalding, which has now been installed in the Spalding Room, adjacent to a picture of him at his desk.
From left to right: Dr Aseem Vohra, Ms Mary-Louise Aitken, Professor Mark Smith, Dr Anne Spalding, Mrs Jeanie Moyo, and Mrs Sue Luboff
Dr Spalding then spoke about the journey she had undertaken in finding out about her grandfather’s philanthropic work, through her trips to the Reading Room at the Weston Library, where she was able to access numerous files held in the University Archives; she clearly articulated her grandfather’s views and priorities, emphasising his passion for the projects that he initiated and sponsored, and the determination and creativity with which he worked to bring these to fruition. She commented especially on H.N. Spalding’s exceptional memory, how he was ahead of his time in wanting knowledgeable dialogue about and between religious traditions, and how dedicated he was in promoting this at the University of Oxford through the Chair of Eastern and Religions and Ethics and ‘Asia House’.
A reception followed where around 25 Faculty members were able to meet and converse with our guests.
For more photographs of this event, please see here.