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Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman has pledged $4 million to endow a professorship in African and African American Studies at Brandeis University, her alma mater.
The gift, she says, comes after a period of self-reflection and a series of interviews in which she expressed regret about the lack of diversity on the hit NBC sitcom. Kauffman is said to have been deeply affected by George Floyd and the nationwide protests sparked by his murder that furthered conversations about systemic racism and calls for inclusion across countless industries.
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“It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalized systemic racism,” Kauffman said in a statement released by Brandeis. “I’ve been working really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And this seemed to me to be a way that I could participate in the conversation from a white woman’s perspective.”
Known as the Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies, the endowment will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora, while also helping the AAAS department recruit experts, map long-term priorities and provide new opportunities for students.
Brandeis president Ron Liebowitz called the gift “a transformative moment” in the university’s history. “This professorship is so meaningful to both our African and African American Studies department and to the university,” he said of the department that celebrated a 50th anniversary in 2019. “It is the first endowed professorship in the program, which means it will ensure the study of African and African American culture, history and politics for generations of Brandeis students — something more critical than ever.”
Kauffman graduated in 1978 from Brandeis University, a private research university located west of Boston in Waltham, Massachusetts. It was there that she met writing partner and Friends co-creator David Crane while they both were students. In 2020, she received an honorary doctorate from the university, and in May, she delivered a joint commencement address to the classes of 2020/2021.
THR has requested additional comment from Kauffman about the endowment and will update the story if that becomes available.