$100,000 given to establish fund in honor of J. Christopher Stevens

Christopher Stevens (US Embassy/Courtesy)

On the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, friends and family of UC Berkeley alumnus J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the assault, gave $100,000 to the campus to support students interested in studying the Middle East.

The money was given to create a fund at the campus Center for Middle Eastern Studies to commemorate the life of Stevens, one of four Americans killed during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, where Stevens was serving as U.S. ambassador. The embassy was stormed by a group of insurgents with links to al-Qaida.

According to Nezar AlSayyad, chair of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the grants will be given to two undergraduate students and two graduate students each year. They will specifically be given to students who want to travel to North Africa and students pursuing degrees with a focus in Middle Eastern studies. There are 20 students pursuing the Middle Eastern Studies major, according to AlSayyad.

The fund is monumental, he said, specifically because it is the only endowment through the Center for Middle Eastern Studies to which undergraduates have access.

Stevens graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from UC Berkeley in 1982. Before serving as an ambassador, Stevens held State Department positions in Israel, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, according the U.S. Department of State website.

“The late Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens embodied the very best of Berkeley’s spirit of public service,” said Jose Rodriguez, campaign communications director of University Relations at UC Berkeley. “His legacy continues in the new generation of students inspired by his example.”

Students will not be able to apply for grants through the center until 2014, because the money from the endowment will take one year to process, AlSayyad said. The fund has the potential to grow beyond $100,000 because many who knew Stevens have already pledged to make future donations, he said.

“I hope that in the future, we don’t have to have tragic incidences in order to raise money for endowments for our programs,” AlSayyad said.

The fund is not the only tribute to Stevens on campus. Shortly after his death, the J. Christopher Stevens Public Service Scholars program was announced. This program provides monetary support to help students participate in various internships and training programs in the fields of public service and foreign affairs.

The UC Berkeley Public Service Center, which oversees the program, is currently in the process of raising money to finance its mission, said Mike Bishop, the center’s interim director.

Contact Sophie Mattson at [email protected]