“Make no little plans,” Islam tells the graduating class.
ADELPHI, Maryland: Indian American entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank Islam delivered the final commencement address at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) 2019 spring commencement on Sunday.
The commencement event, held at the Xfinity Center on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park, on Sunday afternoon, recognized associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients from UMUC.
“No hope should be high enough for you to achieve and no dream should be large enough for you to achieve,” Islam told the graduating class. “If you conceive it, you believe it, you can achieve it. You can make impossible as possible. There are no limits.”
He said that the newly minted graduates can make the world a better place, by being “Informed,” “Independent” and “Involved.”
UMUC, a public university based in Adelphi, MD, just outside of Washington, DC, is focused on online education. With an enrollment of more than 90,000 students, it is one of the largest distance-learning institutions in the world, having campuses in Maryland, Europe, East Asia and the Middle East.
Islam’s address capped five-week-long commencement ceremonies that began in Tokyo on April 13. Ceremonies were also held in Okinawa in Japan, Seoul in South Korea, Ramstein in Germany and Guam.
As UMUC offers programs in more than 130 US military bases worldwide, a significant percentage of graduating students were members of the US Armed Services. For the university, it is the 70th anniversary of educating US military service members.
UMUC President Javier Miyares introduced Islam, who was born in Azamgarh, in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, and came to the United States to enroll for a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Islam acquired the IT firm QSS Group in 1994 for $45,000 after he and his wife, Debbie Driesman, mortgaged their home. He sold the company 13 years later after growing it into a mid-size company, with more than 3,000 employees and revenue in excess of $300 million.
After selling QSS in 2007, Islam and Driesman have been engaged in philanthropy for the past 12 years. The primary focus on their giving is education, art and culture, and conflict resolution. The Frank Islam and Debbie Driesman Foundation has donated more than $2.5 million to India’s Aligarh Muslim University, Islam’s alma mater. In the United States, institutions the couple supported include the US Institute of Peace and the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.
On Sunday, narrating his story before a gathering of several thousands — which included the graduating class, their parents and friends — the philanthropist said his story could have happened only in America. “I am beneficiary of America’s kindness and generosity. My journey was not a straight line. Indeed, there were numerous twists and turns. There were many dark and desperate days. And the final destination was not certain. What enabled me to prevail on the journey was the opportunity presented by the American Dream.”
Quoting Chicago city planner Daniel Burnham, Islam said: “No matter what your discipline or where you stand in your life’s journey, I have one piece of advice for you: That is make no little plans. ‘Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.’”