WESTWOOD—On Monday, April 17, UCLA announced that its School of Law received a $20 million gift to launch the Promise Institute for Human Rights, funded in part by proceeds from the upcoming movie, “The Promise,” about the Armenian Genocide.
The donation is the largest gift the law school has ever received to create a new institute. Additional donations and university resources will help to fund the institute, which will serve as a national hub for human rights education and advocacy, according to the announcement.
“In so many corners of the campus, our faculty and students are focused on identifying and addressing the conditions that create social unrest, displacement and injustice,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “The Promise Institute will become UCLA’s center for collaboration in this area and will greatly enhance our ability to serve a global leadership role.”
The Promise Institute will expand the law school’s work in human rights and support its research and advocacy on genocide awareness. Course offerings at the law school and programs in human rights law and policy will be expanded. Students and faculty across the campus will collaborate in addressing crises around the world. More faculty and guest speakers will be hired, and further human rights events and conferences will be implemented. Students will be granted fellowships and scholarships.
“This visionary gift is a giant step toward making UCLA Law the premier center for human rights in Southern California,” said Jennifer Mnookin, Dean of UCLA School of Law. “While the school already has a strong record of human rights scholarship and activity, the Promise Institute will greatly enhance our program and have an impact felt around the world.”
The $20 million gift was announced the same day the law school hosted a conference titled “Contemporary Challenges in Human Rights,” and one week before Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, on Monday, April 24. The Remembrance Day commemorates the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, during which atrocities were committed against the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire.
Dr. Eric Esrailian, producer of “The Promise” and a faculty member at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, spearheaded the effort to create the new institute. In 2012, he helped the late Kerkor “Kirk” Kerkorian, Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist, establish the film company Survival Pictures. The company aims to spread awareness about the Armenian Genocide and atrocities of the past.
Esrailian and Kerkorian spent two years researching for Survival Pictures’ debut film, “The Promise.” Estrailian produced the film with producer William Horberg and Mike Medavoy, fellow UCLA alumnus and chairman of Phoenix Pictures.
“The Promise,” set to open on Friday, April 21, and is about a love triangle, in which an Armenian medical student and an American photojournalist in Constantinople both fall for an Armenian artist. The plot is set in the final years of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide. The movie, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016, stars Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, and Charlotte Le Bon.
The gift for the Promise Institute is part of the Centennial Campaign for UCLA, the $4.2 billion fundraising effort that will conclude in December 2019, during the 100th anniversary of the university’s founding.