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After losing out on a $1.5 million chair in Islamic studies last month, Temple University announced it has received a new gift from a local energy executive and former Catholic seminarian to fund a chair in interfaith dialogue.
Harry Halloran, 68, who took just one religion course at Temple 30 years ago, offered $1.5 million to finance the Leonard and Arlene Swidler Chair of Interreligous Dialogue. Swidler has been a professor at Temple University since 1966 and is an authority on ecumenism.
“Len knows so many people and has done such a great job traveling all over the world and having dialogues with different religions,” said Halloran, chairman and CEO of American Refining Group, an oil and alternative energy company. “I thought it was important to continue this work which is irreplaceable.”
Halloran, who lives in Villanova, also is donating $300,000 toward the $1.5 million needed to create the Islamic studies chair. A Muslim organization had offered to fund the chair, honoring a retiring Islamic studies professor, but withdrew after Temple delayed giving making a decision on the money.
Professors, including Swidler, said that trustees and others pressured president Ann Hart to decline the money because it came from a Muslim organization, International Institute of Islamic Thought, which had been included in a government probe of terrorist funding after the Sept. 11 attack. No action has been taken against it.

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