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2015 Farooq and Farida Kathwari endow WCSU Honors Program

DANBURY, CONN. Western Connecticut State University announced on Thursday, March 5, 2015, that Farooq Kathwari, CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors, and his wife, Farida, have given a gift of $1 million to create an endowment that will support the university’s Honors Program.

The Connecticut State Colleges & Universities Board of Regents for Higher Education acknowledged the gift and approved renaming the program the Kathwari Honors Program.

“The Kathwari family and Western’s Honors Program are a perfect match,” said WCSU President James W. Schmotter. “Both epitomize dedication to excellence, recognition of the value of hard work, and commitment to making the world a better place. Farooq and Farida Kathwari’s generous gift not only honors their son Irfan’s memory; it also establishes a permanent foundation for educational experiences that will shape the lives of our Honors students.”

Kathwari said he decided to support WCSU with this gift in part because Ethan Allen has been involved with the university ever since Nathan Ancell moved the company headquarters to Danbury in 1972. The Ancell School of Business is named for the former Ethan Allen CEO.

“Western has been part of our environment here,” said Kathwari, a member of the WCSU Foundation Board of Directors. “I appreciate Western because it focuses on students who are not necessarily coming from well-to-do families. They are serious and they attend Western to make a good career for themselves. Helping them, to me, is important. It is to help well-deserving students.

Kathwari’s first gift to the university in the 1990s was created to help students who intended to teach in inner-city schools. He praised the Honors Program, which serves more than 200 high-performing students with extra instruction and service opportunities. With this gift, the program is expected to grow to 500 students.

“The Honors Program is very important,” Kathwari said. “They are students who perform well and perhaps can use the extra help to further their education and careers. I believe these students will make a difference.”

Kathwari emigrated to the U.S. at 21 to attend graduate school, at night, at New York University, where he earned his MBA. Before graduating, he began selling crafts from Kashmir that were sent by his grandfather. While working on Wall Street for Rothschild Inc., where he became CFO at the age of 27, he met Ancell, and they agreed Kathwari would join Ethan Allen, which today has annual sales exceeding $750 million.

Kathwari’s gift will support student scholarships and expansion of the Kathwari Honors Program. The building that will house the program, formerly Alumni Hall, will be named the Irfan Kathwari Honors House, in memory of the Kathwaris’ son. Alumni functions, along with development, communications and related departments, will be relocated to another building on campus.

A celebration of the gift and a building dedication is planned for the spring.

For more information, call the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.