Stellan Vinthagen hired to be chair in the study of nonviolent direct action and civil resistance.

Dr. Stellan Vinthagen

With a $2.8 million endowment, the University of Massachusetts has hired Stellan Vinthagen, an internationally known Swedish peace activist, to be chair in the study of nonviolent direct action and civil resistance.

The donation was made in November of 2011, but because of the distinct nature of the position, it took some time to fill, said UMass spokesman Edward F. Blaguszewski.

The family that endowed the position wishes to remain anonymous, and Blaguszewski could not provide any details other than they are a family committed to the cause of social justice.

The family initially donated to create the university's Psychology of Peace and Violence Program, said program director Linda R. Tropp.

The donation will pay for the position and related activities and "support scientific research that can provide guidance to people across the globe who seek to improve their societies through nonviolence," according to a press release.

Vinthagen, who is also an educator in conflict transformation and civil disobedience, will also become part of the university's Psychology of Peace and Violence Program, and will lead the program's expansion to address issues of nonviolent action and civil resistance, according to the release.

Tropp said the program traditionally focuses on peace and reconciliation. This expands it to look at "how to achieve justice as well. You can't sustain peace without justice."

"The training of scientific researchers who can use their work to promote peace and non-violence in the world is directly in line with their vision in making this gift," Tropp said of the donors.

Vinthagen plans for the campus to publish an annual report on direct, nonviolent actions similar to reports describing trends of violent conflicts and wars.

"The key is to develop practical and critical knowledge and guidelines that will facilitate more effective struggles against injustices and domination, in the U.S. and around the world," Vinthagen said in a statement.

In a statement, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy said, "The appointment of Dr. Vinthagen, a world renowned authority in peaceful conflict resolution, is perfectly aligned with the flagship campus's long history as a force for social justice. Dr. Vinthagen's work is at the forefront of an emerging field of study and his appointment will enrich our campus immeasurably while elevating the profile of UMass Amherst on the world stage."

He begins July 1 but will be on campus in August, Blaguszewski said. "He's built a worldwide set of connections," he said. And "he's very engaging." He sees the position as a "dream job."