Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor taught his philosophy class for the last time in the fall of 2022, marking the end of an era. Since Kapoor began working at Fresno State in 1963, he has been a staple in the classroom and the community. His many accomplishments include founding the Peace and Conflict Studies program, spearheading the construction of the Peace Garden on campus and starting the “Stop the Hate and Build the Culture of Peace Week,” just to name a few.
In 1992, the then-mayor Karen Humphrey named him to the City of Fresno’s Human Relations Commission, where he served for 12 years, including four years as chair. In 2018, the Fresno County Office of Education honored him for his lifetime of educational contributions, and in 2022 he received the Top Dog Arthur Safstrom Service Award from Fresno State.
As founder and director of the Peace and Conflict Studies program, Kapoor created an area of study that helps students and future civic leaders receive training in conflict resolution and healing. His program recognizes Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar E. Chavez, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jane Addams – figures who are now memorialized in the Fresno State Peace Garden.
“We are so grateful to Dr. Kapoor for inspiring his students in his Peace and Conflict Studies classes as well as our campus to seek and celebrate justice and upliftment for all. He has truly improved individual lives and our community through his decades of work here at Fresno State,” said Dr. Honora Chapman, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.
The idea for the Peace Garden was born in 1990, the year a bronze bust honoring Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the 20th-century human rights movement and a visionary of nonviolence, was inaugurated north of the Fresno State library. Located in the heart of campus, the Peace Garden provides a profoundly moving experience. It serves as a beacon of hope and a memorial to those who have dedicated their lives to advocacy and peace.
“Peace Garden is my modest contribution, the legacy that I will be leaving behind,” said Kapoor.
The second statue added in 1996 was of Cesar Chavez, a community organizer, social entrepreneur, advocate for the environment and consumer rights and a leader in civil rights for Latino and agricultural labor. In the 1960s and 70s, Chavez created the National Agricultural Workers Association, which became United Farm Workers of America. Through his activism, he achieved significant victories resulting in increased wages and improved working conditions for farm workers.
In 1998, the likeness of American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was dedicated in the Peace Garden. From the middle of the 1950s until his assassination in 1968, King used nonviolent protest to demand equality and human rights for African Americans, the underprivileged and all other victims of injustice.
The most recent statue was created in Jane Addams’ honor, a writer, social reformer and international peace activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She earned recognition on a global scale for her commitment to promoting peace, which led to her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, being the first American woman to do so.
“As a Gandhi scholar who is committed to studying the topics of peace, nonviolence, and inner transformation, Fresno State’s Peace Garden helped me to decide that Fresno State was the right place for me,” said Dr. Veena R. Howard, professor of philosophy and director of the M.K. Gandhi Center: Inner Peace and Sarvodya. “Since I arrived at Fresno State, I have watched, with great admiration, Dr. Kapoor’s tireless and unwavering commitment for creating programming and advancing initiatives focused on building a culture of peace and harmony.”
The Peace Garden now has additional distinctive elements. Todd Beamer and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Vincent Tolbert, both Fresno State graduates, were recognized in 2002 with the planting of two Canary Islands pine trees. Both were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2020, three seedlings of a camphor tree that survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb were planted in the Peace Garden to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The trees carry the memory of those who died and hope that nuclear weapons are never used again.
Over the years, Kapoor has also been very active in working with local Native American tribes.
“It has been part of my dream since long ago. When I came to the Valley in ‘67, immediately for spiritual reasons, I started connecting with the native tribes,” said Dr. Kapoor. “These are the people who have influenced me. It is their struggles and sacrifices to be where we are today.”
At the Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples event in December, presented by The Human Rights Coalition of the Central Valley and the Fresno State Ethics Center, Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval announced a donation of $50,000 to erect a new monument honoring regional Indigenous people. Kapoor said he is working to gather the additional funds, and the initiative aims to involve local tribes.
“My philosophy is, the group that you work with, let them take the ball and run; you just support them,” Kapoor said.
In addition to continuing to work alongside the Native American Indian organization here on campus and in the community, he wants to finish the process of adding a Nelson Mandela statue to the Peace Garden. Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and political figure who, after serving 27 years in jail for his fight against racial injustice, became South Africa’s first black president. He was known as “The Father of the Nation” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Kapoor also envisions a Peace Wall in the Peace Garden to represent all the ethnic groups in Central California.
After 56 years on campus, Kapoor said he intends to take a “little break.” However, when looking at his current and future initiatives, it becomes clear that Kapoor will be visible on campus for a long time to come.
“Though I will not be teaching in the classroom, my educational efforts on the campus will continue in one form or the other,” he confirmed.
Kapoor was born in Punjab, India. Throughout his life, he has adopted, taught and advocated for the idea of nonviolence from Mahatma Gandhi. He has dedicated himself to social work, peace studies and community development. He has sought out, campaigned for, and taught about peace and justice through nonviolence. He has been an extraordinary advocate of Gandhi’s vision, lifestyle, and teachings, evident in his leadership and legacy at Fresno State and the world beyond.
2 thoughts on “Kapoor focuses on expanding the Peace Garden legacy after stepping away from classroom”
Excellent video featuring Dr.Kapoor presenting an informative overview tour of the Fresno State Peace Garden. The life works and dedication of Dr. Kapoor continue to be exemplary.
I am amazed at ALL that you do for the community: Commitment, ENERGY , and the eternal message of love for humanity.