Story posted March 07, 2007
For more information contact:
Dr. Sree Padma Holt, ISLE Program Administrative Director
Phone: (207) 725-3874
Back in 1980, five professors specializing in South Asian religions – John Strong from Bates, John Holt from Bowdoin, Bardwell Smith from Carleton, Yeager Hudson from Colby, and Lowell Bloss from Hobart William Smith – got together and discussed the possibility of starting a study abroad program for undergraduate students in Sri Lanka with Buddhism as its focus.
Little did any of them realize that the program - The Inter-Collegiate Sri Lanka Educational (ISLE) Program (focusing not only on religion of the island, but on its politics, art and literature, ecology and development, history and much more) - would not only gather steam and even survive some of Sri Lanka's most tumultuous years, but that a quarter century later, it would see a Silver Jubilee.
In January, 2007, a group representing Bowdoin (the program's host college) and six of the eight consortium colleges flew to Sri Lanka for the Jubilee. President Barry and Karen Mills from Bowdoin College, joined by Bates Assistant Dean of Faculty Judy Head, Carleton Associate Dean of the College Beverly Nagel, Swarthmore Provost Connie Hungerford, Whitman Dean of Faculty Timothy Kaufman-Osborn and Professor Hans Oberdieck (ISLE faculty director in 1987) attended the celebration. Grinnell College Professor Edmund Gilday (Chair, ISLE Faculty Board of Directors) and Bowdoin Professor John Holt (Consultant, Executive Committee the ISLE Faculty Board) joined Sree Padma Holt (Administrative Director of ISLE) in hosting the guests.
The group traveled to Kandy, where the ISLE Center is located, near the University of Peradeniya, and spent a few days seeing the university, the ISLE facilities and the Dangolla neighborhood, and meeting faculty, staff and friends of ISLE. Arrangements were also made to visit the ICES (International Center for Ethnic Studies) office in Kandy, and the group later participated on a three-day tour to archeological sites in the North. In addition, a traditional Kandy dance performance was presented at the ISLE Center, and the guests also experienced the "homestay" aspect of the program, much treasured by students, as guests with a local host family for one night during their visit.
The official Jubilee events included a gathering of nearly 100 people (current and former ISLE faculty, directors and staff, along with former students, Wilhelm fellows, and other friends of the program) at the university for a presentation and luncheon. Current U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mr. Robert Blake, Jr., and the executive director of the U.S./Sri Lanka Bi-national Fulbright Commission in Colombo, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, were among the special guests.