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.
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.
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
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.