Prime Minister and the Aga Khan laud Shamsh Kassim-Lakha's glorious tenure at AKU
Presiding over the 18th Convocation of Aga Khan University, the Chancellor of the University, His Highness the Aga Khan announced the retirement of the first president of the University, Shamsh Kassim-Lakha. The Chancellor also introduced to the Convocation, Mr Kassim-Lakha's successor, Firoz Rasul, who will assume the presidency on May 1, 2006.
His Excellency, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who was the Chief Guest at the Convocation, congratulated Mr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha on his excellent contribution to AKU and said, "The commitment, dedication, tenacity and resilience demonstrated by Mr Kassim-Lakha, is a source of inspiration for everyone."
Mr Kassim-Lakha steps down from the leadership of AKU after many years of service. He chaired the committee that designed and constructed the campus from 1979-1985; lead the commissioning and became the first head of Aga Khan University Hospital in 1985; and became the first president of the University in 2000. Pakistan and France have awarded him distinctions for his contributions to education.
Mr Rasul is a member of the Board of Governors of the University of British Columbia and has overseen the establishment of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa. Mr Rasul is also a leading Canadian entrepreneur, having built up a number of enterprises, most recently Ballard Power Systems, an innovator in hydrogen fuel cell technology.
In his remarks to the 275 graduates of AKU receiving degrees in nursing, medicine and education, the Chancellor noted the remarkable strengths the University had established in its short history. The University's School of Nursing is but 25 years of age and its Medical College is younger, yet they have graduated, respectively, over 1500 nurses and some 1200 doctors. The Medical College and AKU's institute for Educational Development, which is younger still, have both established PhD programmes. In addition to Pakistan, the University now has teaching sites and diploma and graduate programmes in Afghanistan, Kenya, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda and the United Kingdom.
The Aga Khan expressed his warmest gratitude to AKU's first President, Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, noting that the substance and quality of the University today, owed a great deal to his determination, energies and loyalty. "All this has been possible," the Chancellor noted, "because of what was accomplished during the tenure of Shamsh Kassim-Lakha. He leaves behind him a dynamic institution. He and his wife Khadijah have given their hearts to AKU."
President Kassim-Lakha reflected that, "To have been asked to lead the team that translated into reality His Highness's vision of AKU as a centre of excellence has been a unique privilege for me. It is deeply gratifying that Pakistan's first private university is now know internationally and is establishing campuses and programmes in countries that also seek excellence in nursing, medicine and teaching. The guidance of the Chancellor, wisdom of an international Board, and the energy of an outstanding and dedicated faculty and staff have been an unfailing inspiration."
The Chancellor also spoke of the University's aspirations for the future: in research, in which its geneticists and early childhood specialists were focussing on grave, endemic problems of the developing world; in undergraduate, professional and PhD programmes in a number of fields, and to a deeper commitment internationally.
"To assure that the University moves forward to its next level of achievement in these vital areas," the Chancellor stated, "I could not let Shamsh Kassim-Lakha retire until I was satisfied that a successor fully worthy of this office had been identified. I am delighted that Firoz Rasul and his wife Saida, with their many academic and leadership qualifications, will be coming to AKU."
Firoz Rasul responded, "I am humbled and excited by the opportunity to take on the leadership of Aga Khan University which has established such a strong foundation, based on twenty five years of solid achievements. The vision of the Chancellor to build an international university that is focussed on improving the quality of life of communities in the developing world is an inspiration and a great challenge."
The Chancellor noted that Mr Kassim-Lakha and Mr Rasul would be working closely together in the coming months, and that Mr Kassim-Lakha would continue to be part of AKU, locally and internationally.