A gift provided by Whitney and Betty MacMillan has prompted the renaming of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies and will allow for the creation of several new professorships in international studies, Yale President Richard Levin announced Tuesday.

The center will now be called the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale in honor of the donation, “one of the largest gifts Yale has ever received,” Levin said in Luce Hall this afternoon at a reception attended by approximately 100 students, faculty and alumni. The early stage of the gift will be used to fund new professorships in international studies, while the specific areas funded by the later portion, also in international studies, have not yet been determined, he said.

“We are thrilled by this,” Levin said. “We will have more resources to spend and a more euphonious name.”

Whitney MacMillan ’51, who has served on the Yale President’s Council on International Activities, retired in 1995 as chairman and CEO of Cargill, an agricultural trading company and the world’s largest privately owned company.

Ian Shapiro, the director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, said the gift will provide for several professorships, intended to be awarded to interdisciplinary faculty with departmental affiliations.

“We are hoping to find people appointable in more than one department,” Shapiro said. “We will sponsor the appointments, but the appointments themselves will be made in specific departments.”

Whitney MacMillan, who flew in for the ceremony with his wife from his Minneapolis home, said his interest in international affairs began in a European history class in the seventh grade and has continued to this day.

Cargill became a global institution in the 45 years he worked there, and a third of its investments were made in third-world countries that have mostly evolved from dictatorships into democracies.

“I’m a great advocate of democracies,” MacMillan said. “It is the best system. It’s not a perfect system, but at least you know what the future may hold.”

Cole Carnesecca ’06, who was present at the reception, said he thinks the addition of new professorships will be a positive development for the University.

“I think it’s definitely a good thing,” Carnesecca said. “I think there are few areas as important as international studies.”

The YCIAS Web site has already been relaunched featuring the center’s new name. Between 250 and 300 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree programs through the center each year, according to the site.