Doctor of Humane Letters
Dr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha
Each year the University Awards Committee considers nominations for the Award of Distinction. This award is presented to “...recognize publicly and to honour outstanding persons who have contributed constructively and consistently to the development of the University.” An honorary degree is the highest University Award of Distinction that can be conferred at the Aga Khan University.
This year, the University has the honour of presenting a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa to Mr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha.
Mr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha served the Aga Khan University for almost three decades, until 2005, as the founding President and Trustee of The Aga Khan University --- Pakistan’s first private, autonomous institution of higher education chartered in 1983. Under the direction and vision of the University’s founder and Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mr Kassim-Lakha led the overall planning, construction, commissioning and administration - to create one of the developing world’s premier universities with teaching sites in several countries spanning three continents. Under his leadership, the University attained international recognition for the quality of its academic programmes in medicine, nursing and education as well as its healthcare services.
Shamsh became and continues to be identified with the myriad challenges facing educational and health development in Pakistan and other developing countries. He is renowned for his strategic, creative and dynamic leadership in integrating and advancing positive responses to those challenges. Indeed, until the establishment of Aga Khan University, there was no private university in Pakistan. Shamsh Kassim-Lahka became the torchbearer and pioneer in bringing new perspectives to the delivery of university education, thereby impacting the entire higher education sector in the country.
The origins and dynamic growth of Aga Khan University since its inception can be attributed in large part to the leadership of Mr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, who brought together commitment to the well-being of the people of Pakistan with the capacity for advancing a university as an instrument for societal development and as an agent of change --- translating the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan for AKU to be one of the developing world's most distinguished Universities.
In 1997 Shamsh co-chaired with the Education Minister of Tajikistan, the Commission on the Establishment of the University of Central Asia. He later helped negotiate the international treaty and charter of this new University, sponsored by the governments of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Ismaili Imamat. He headed the Committee that recommended reforms in higher education in 2001-2, leading to the creation of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) and was subsequently appointed as a member of the commission. He served as Pakistan’s Minister of Education as well as Science and Technology in the Caretaker Government of Pakistan in 2007-8. He is the founding and continuing chair of the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy. Mr Kassam-Lahka is a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, and also sits on the Board of the International Baccalaureate Organization.
In recognition of his services to higher education, health care, environment and public service, he has received national and international awards: the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa from McMaster University of Canada in 1984; the Sitara-i-Imtiaz from the President of Pakistan in 1999; the award of Officer in the French National Order of Merit from the President of France in 2001; and the Hilal-i-Imtiaz from the President of Pakistan in 2002.
On behalf of the University, I would like to express our gratitude to Mr Kassim-Lakha for his past and continuing service in improving the quality standards of higher education and healthcare in Pakistan and elsewhere especially during the years he headed Aga Khan University. On this auspicious occasion of the 30th anniversary of the grant of the AKU Charter which you co-authored, we applaud your steadfast efforts in the enhancement of education.
Your Highness, I request that you confer the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, on Mr Shamsh Kassim-Lahka.