gift to UTSA
Top photo: From left are Stefanie Wittenbach, UTSA Library
assistant dean, and alumnus Bill Mastoris. Middle and bottom
photos: Views of the 285-year-old Koran
(Koran photos by Mathew Martin)

Alumnus donates 285-year-old Koran to UTSA Library

By Janice Odom
Director of Development - Foundation and Organization Relations

(March 15, 2007)--William (Bill) Mastoris Jr., who in retirement has earned three degrees from UTSA, has donated to the UTSA Library a 285-year-old Koran that he purchased in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1970 while serving in the U.S. Army.

The beautiful, illuminated Arabic manuscript was written in Lahore, India, in 1722, and features crushed lapis lazuli pounded into the leather of the cover. Lapis lazuli is a deep blue, opaque gemstone that was highly prized by the Egyptian pharaohs and is still very popular today. Arabic is read from right to left, and the front of an Arabic book is considered the back of a book in Western cultures.

Mastoris kept the book in a bank vault for many years before donating it to UTSA, where it is in the John Peace Library Special Collections on the 1604 Campus.

"The Koran is a wonderful addition to our collection for several reasons," said Gerrianne Schaad, head of UTSA archives and special collections. "It is a lovely example of an illuminated book. The colors are vibrant and the geometric designs are intriguing. It is worth the effort of students and faculty studying graphic design to come and see it.

"The Koran is also an example of the cultural diversity to be found at UTSA. Most of the materials in Special Collections focus on the history of Texas; however, Texas itself is made up of different groups from many places, over several centuries, and encompassing different religious and cultural traditions," Schaad noted.

Mastoris, a 1950 graduate of the United States Military Academy with a degree in engineering, retired with the rank of colonel in 1983 after a 38-year career in the Army. After settling in San Antonio, he entered UTSA, where he earned bachelor's degrees in finance in 1989, humanities in 1991 and geography in 1993.

A member of the Sombrilla Society, the special organization for friends who have included UTSA in their estate plans, Mastoris also has endowed three scholarships at the university -- the Minnie P. Mastoris Endowed Scholarship in geography, the William V. Mastoris Endowed Scholarship in humanities and the William Mastoris Jr. Endowed Business Scholarship.

For more information, visit the Giving to UTSA Web site.

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