Maulana Azad University, based in Jodhpur, honors the entrepreneur and philanthropist
Indian American entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank F. Islam has received an honorary doctorate from the Maulana Azad University, based in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan.
Islam, a prominent Democratic Party donor, accepted the doctorate virtually at the university’s second convocation held on January 9.
“It is truly an honor for me to receive this [doctorate],” he said, addressing the graduating students from his Potomac, MD, home. “I am pleased and delighted to accept this degree with all due humility not for me, but in recognition of all those Maulana Azad University giants who have made a difference in society through their leadership, education, and public service.”
Read: Philanthropist Frank Islam gets Global Business and Leadership Award (December 19, 2016)
The degree was for Islam’s “outstanding contribution towards service to the mankind.”
The Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh,-born Islam is a well-known philanthropist in the Washington, DC, area. He and his wife, Debbie Driesman, have donated millions of dollars to various causes in the United States and India.
In his speech to the graduating students, Islam spoke about good citizenship. “Civic engagement is at the heart of good citizenship,” he said. “Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference.”
The Indian American also spoke about his own entrepreneurial and philanthropic journey.
Islam said when he started his business, he had not thought of it as a form of civic engagement. “In looking back now, I understand that they definitely were and that we are all here on this earth for a higher purpose,” he said. “As I have made my journey, I have not always done so perfectly, but have done so with a commitment to always doing better and to helping others do the same. That has been my personal philosophy – and I am pleased to be given an honorary degree for that approach and my accomplishments on my journey.”
The philanthropist said he has learned three lessons from his journey.
“Don’t think anything is impossible,” he said. “No hope should be too high for you to achieve and no dream should be too large for you to achieve.”
Islam said the second major lesson he learned was “Do well but also do good.”
“Reach out and help those who are voiceless and vulnerable,” he said. “Help them through darkest moments of their lives. Please remember when they succeed, all of us succeed. India succeeds. The world succeeds. People cannot succeed when they are held back.”
Read: Frank Islam inducted into Montgomery County Business Hall of Fame (October 29, 2016)
The third lesson that Islam said he learned during his journey is to extend one’s “hand, hope, heart, and help to those in the weaker sections, especially those who are socially and economically disadvantaged and who are less fortunate, reach out and help them with education and inclusive economic mobility.”
The Maulana Azad University, located in Jodhpur, the second-largest city in Rajasthan, was established in 2013. It is run by the Marwar Muslim Educational and Welfare Society, which has been in existence since 1929.
The convocation was attended by, among others, Saleh Mohammad, the Rajasthan Minister of Minority Affairs.
The Maulana Azad University event was the second convocation at a Rajasthan university attended by Islam virtually in three weeks. On December 21, he delivered the convocation address at Mohanlal Sukhadia University in Udaipur, one of the largest public universities in the state.
In the convocation address, he urged the graduating students to make their journey one of “heart.”
“And, if you make your journey one of the heart, you and your fellow graduates will help make India and the world a better and fairer place for all. I see the future and because of who you are and what you will do it is a bright one,” he said.
Islam added that as a proud Indian American, he strongly believed “in the promise, potential, and possibilities of India.”
The convocation was attended by Rajasthan Gov. Karlraj Mishra, Speaker of the Rajasthan assembly Dr. C.P. Joshi and the state’s Minister of Higher Education Rajendra Singh Yadav.
Read: Frank Islam receives honorary degree from Aligarh Muslim University (February 29, 2016)
Islam came to the United States in the early 1970s to attend University of Colorado, in Boulder. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from the university, he worked for different companies for two decades before launching his own company, the QSS Group, an information technology firm, in 1994.
He sold the company in 2007 and set up a private investment holding company, FI Investment Group.
Following the exit from QSS, Islam and Driesman established a philanthropic foundation. The mission of the Frank Islam and Debbie Driesman Foundation is to promote education, art and culture, and peace and conflict-resolution.
The organizations and institutions the couple has supported over the years include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the United States Institute of Peace, Clinton Foundation, and the Aligarh Muslim University, Islam’s alma mater in India. At AMU, they have funded two major initiatives, the construction of multi-million dollar Frank and Debbie Islam Management Complex, and a state-of-the-art mass communication auditorium.