​Ghazala Kabani '88 and Aziz Nathoo

A future gift from a retirement plan

When Ghazala Kabani '88 applied to the AKU School of Nursing, little did she know how greatly her education — and the AKU “brand" — would enhance and enrich her life.

AKU was founded while Ghazala was a teenager in Karachi.  Her applying to AKU was quite a gamble:  not only was the University new, there were few role models of nurses at the time.  Of the original class of 100, over time 60 dropped out — either for family reasons or because they found the course of study too rigorous.  Ghazala, however, thrived:  she “loved" her studies.  What is more, she recognized, and was quite excited by, what AKU was doing:  setting the standards for hospitals and schools of nursing throughout the country.  Indeed, she and many of the other members of the Class of 1988 have become leaders in the field of nursing.

Wishing to become a community-health nurse, Ghazala took a fourth year at Holy Family Hospital to be trained as a midwife; she then returned to AKU to work as a community health nurse in the Thatta Health Project.  After two years, she returned to her alma mater to earn a BScN, receiving a scholarship to do so.  (She was a member of only the second graduating class of the BScN program.)  She then joined the staff of AKU.  After two years, she applied for a master's degree at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.  She was accepted to the program, which a scholarship from the Aga Khan Foundation enabled her to attend.  As with her studies at AKU, she thoroughly enjoyed those at Johns Hopkins.  Her first year was in Baltimore, her second in Washington, D.C., studying health and public policy; she also served as an intern in the Public Health Department of the latter city.

At the end of her second year at Johns Hopkins, Professor David Bell, a founding Trustee of AKU, recommended that Ghazala apply to the post-doctoral program at the Center for Population and Development Studies — of which he was Director — at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts.  Ghazala objected that, first, she did not have a PhD, and, second, the deadline for applying had passed.  Conversant with the excellence of both AKU and Ghazala's work, Professor Bell continued to urge her to apply:  the Center would give her a few days' grace period to do so.  With only the faintest of hopes, Ghazala submitted a research proposal to conduct research on gender inequities in Pakistan.  To her great surprise, she was accepted into the program.  She was at Harvard for one year.  Her great good fortune in universities continued:  this program, too, she loved.

While in Boston, Ghazala's good fortune was not confined to her studies.  One evening at Jamatkhana, she was introduced to a delightful young man who, with a cousin from MIT, had founded a management consulting firm.  The man had grown up in Tanzania and Kenya; though civil society in both countries was quite weak, he was exceedingly fortunate to have been in the Aga Khan network of superb schools and hospitals, to have played at the Aga Khan club, and to have had access to the superb Aga Khan library.  He had held numerous voluntary and leadership positions in Tanzania and Kenya, chiefly in Ismaili — or Ismaili-affiliated — institutions; these institutions greatly enriched his life.  On the eve of Ghazala's return to Pakistan, this young man, Aziz Nathoo, quite unwilling to let her go, proposed.  They married soon afterwards in Boston.

Following their marriage, Ghazala continued working in U.S., earning her nursing license and other credentials.  She found that her degrees from, and experiences at, AKU opened a great many doors — and that her nursing education always gave her an edge.  For a time, she worked in public health in underserved communities in Wisconsin; she was soon promoted to the position of manager of clinical trials program.  Over time, she joined Novocure, conducting clinical trials on brain tumors:  the device is now the standard of care in the field.

As Senior Director, Clinical Development and Operations at a start-up in Jersey City, New Jersey, Ghazala manages a team conducting trials on drugs to fight life-threatening fungal infections.  She is also collaborating with a team at AKU on two clinical trials on these infections.  This collaboration between Ghazala's company and AKU will increase the ability of Pakistan to conduct clinical trials sponsored by international pharmaceutical/biotech companies.  She also interviews individuals who have applied to the Aga Khan Foundation for a scholarship; her remarkable story inspires, and instills confidence in, the applicants.

Aziz is deeply invested in the interfaith and dialogue space.  He has founded a nonprofit organization that stokes interfaith discussion and strengthens civil society; he organizes conferences on pluralism and interfaith understanding and often speaks on Islam and pluralism at churches, universities, and civic institutions.  He has co-chaired national conferences on “Healing the Soul of our Nation" and is co-chair of an upcoming interfaith conference on “Giving and Forgiving."  He also aids the United Nations in its work bettering the lives of refugees; indeed, he and Ghazala often host refugees in their home.  Indeed, Aziz is quite indefatigable in his seeking to promote understanding among religious and cultural groups; he:  is active with the Poor People's Campaign; is a founding member of the Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation; has contributed to the Charter of Compassion; has collaborated with Amnesty International on advocating for social justice and human rights; and, will soon join the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue and Alliance Initiative in advocating for peaceful dialogue — and strengthening respectful channels of communication — in the Holy Land.  In recognition of his many achievements in this field, in the summer of 2020 the Mayor of Philadelphia appointed Aziz to the city's Council on Interfaith Affairs.

Why will this wonderful couple make AKU a beneficiary of their retirement plan?  “AKU's Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, instructs us to leave the world a better place than we found it.  His Highness says that, if you have a privileged position in society, you must give back to society."  Further, observes Ghazala, her career is inextricably linked to AKU:  her education from, and experiences at, the University have made her brilliant career possible.  Aziz, too, has been a beneficiary of the University and its fellow Aga Khan Development Network agencies; indeed, he terms himself an “AKU in-law" and is a member of the Northeast Team of the Aga Khan Foundation.

And why a gift from their retirement plan after they both pass away?  “Any funds in a retirement plan left to individuals are heavily taxed," note Ghazala and Aziz.  “As much as 70 percent will be lost to taxes.  Because AKU is a nonprofit organization, not a penny will be lost to taxes.  Also, it is quite easy to make the Aga Khan Foundation USA a beneficiary of our plan:  doing so will take us only about 15 minutes online."  (Donors in the U.S. should make the Aga Khan Foundation USA the beneficiary, donors in Canada, the Aga Khan Foundation Canada; donors should stipulate that their gift is for the Aga Khan University.)

And what will Ghazala and Aziz have AKU do with their future gift?  Their gift will create an endowed scholarship fund supporting nursing students with financial need.  “If even one of the students excels and does good things in this world," says Ghazala, “that will more than pay us back.  I also want to pay AKU back for all it has done for me."  The endowed fund Ghazala and Aziz will create will exist as long as AKU exists; it will become part of AKU's general endowment and be invested just as the endowment as a whole is invested.  The endowed fund will pay out approximately five percent of its value each year.  Any growth above five percent will be added to the fund (the principal of which will never be spent); that means that their fund will continue to grow, supporting more and more nursing students over time.

This highly poetic couple adds:  “Our financial DNA is part of AKU's DNA, our footprint in the world, our largesse, infused with the work of AKU, which will live on eternally.  AKU can do far more than we can.  We are thrilled, blessed by God, to be able to contribute to AKU in this fashion.  It will be as if our ashes are sown at AKU."


A note on endowed funds

An endowed fund is invested in AKU's general endowment, which is the investment portfolio of the University.  The endowment — and so each of the endowed funds within it — pays out approximately five percent of its value each year, supporting everything the University does — teaching, research, financial aid, and on and on.  Quite simply, the payout from the endowment is the lifeblood of AKU:  the University could not function without it.  The endowment — and the endowed funds within it — will exist as long as AKU exists.​

An endowed fund, then, is like a “miniature endowment:"  it, too, exists forever, and it, too, pays out five percent or so of its value each year.  A donor can name an endowed fund after herself, a family member, or anyone else she might wish to honor and memorialize.  What is more, an endowed fund grows over time, with the endowment as a whole, thus increasing the good it does.