The University of Michigan continues to strengthen its commitment to interfaith studies with a new gift from one of the state’s most prominent families.

The Padnos family has given a gift exceeding $1 million to the Jean & Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. The new gift is an addition to the family’s previous endowment, and will transform an existing visiting professorship into a full-time faculty professorship named the Stuart B. and Barbara Padnos Professorship in Jewish Thought. The Frankel Center for Judaic Studies is housed within the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA). 

“For more than three decades, the Padnos family has supported U-M and the Frankel Center, and we are so excited and deeply grateful for their latest contribution,” said Anne Curzan, dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. “Their commitment to advancing the liberal arts through interfaith studies helps support LSA’s mission of understanding the diversity of human experience, across the world, across cultures, and across time.”

The gift was made by brothers Doug, Daniel, and Jeff Padnos, as trustees of the Stuart and Barbara Padnos Foundation, and is part of the family’s multigenerational legacy at U-M. In 1988, their parents Stuart B. and Barbara Padnos, in conjunction with the Louis and Helen Padnos Foundation, made a $250,000 gift to the university, which established the Louis and Helen Padnos Visiting Professorship in Judaic Studies. 

“We are delighted to be able to expand upon the visiting professorship to establish this full professorship in Jewish Thought. Stuart and Barbara believed, and we have seen ourselves, that education can help people understand their similarities and differences, and that in most instances, the differences are far less than they thought,” said Jeff Padnos. “It was Stuart’s intention, which we strongly share, that the people chosen for this chair will demonstrate a passion for teaching, for connecting with people, and for contributing to mutual understanding.” 

Since the visiting professorship’s inception, scholars from across the globe have come to U-M to teach and explore the field of Judaic studies. It has also given scholars the opportunity to teach courses in areas not typically taught by permanent LSA faculty. Moving forward, the full professorship will enable scholars to teach and research the in-depth questions of fundamental human concerns, offering students the opportunity to explore and examine the relationship between philosophical questioning and doctrines of Judaism.

The Frankel Center for Judaic Studies offers courses and degrees that allow students to take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the Jewish community, its traditions, histories, global impact, and relationship with other cultures and faiths.

“We are thrilled about the creation of the Padnos Professorship. By expanding this role to a faculty professorship, we are expanding the breadth and depth of Jewish thought and exploration of interfaith communication,” said Scott Spector, director of the Frankel Center. “We create a more equitable and empathetic society through understanding and learning about experiences different from our own, and this is just one example of our mission to achieve that.”

To learn more about the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, visit