Robert Baker

​A future gift of a specific bequest​ 

Robert Baker was (inter alia) Provost of AKU.  In the piece below, Robert explains why he has included a bequest of a specific amount — a “specific bequest” — to the University in his will.  Doing so is one of the simpler ways to make “a gift that costs you nothing now” — and yet aid AKU greatly in the future.

Some years ago, I chose to include a bequest to AKU in my will.  Quite simply, this decision reflected the fact that my years at AKU were the most challenging and rewarding of my professional career.  My preferred area of support is to students, and I have stipulated that my future gift create an endowed scholarship fund for students with financial need.

It was never intended that my bequest should become public.  Chatting about this with former colleagues convinced me, however, that illustrating bequests can perform a useful role in encouraging further support.  So, for this reason I agreed to having my bequest made known, particularly because this also gave me the opportunity to outline my own thinking on the decision to support AKU and its students. 

My years at AKU encompassed three roles:  initially Director of the Institute for Educational Development, then Director General of Planning for the University, and finally as Provost.  I was at AKU during a time of significant expansion beyond Pakistan into East Africa, the UK and, less directly, Central Asia.  Most important, these initiatives were guided by a coherent vision of what an excellent university could be, notwithstanding the fact that the University would be working in challenging and demanding contexts.

Creation and development of a new university requires vision and commitment.  In AKU’s case, the vision of His Highness was articulated through the Report of the Chancellor’s Commission.  Implementation has been guided by an international Board of Trustees, as well as partnerships with some of the world’s leading universities.

It is now many years since I left AKU, but it is demonstrable that the University has moved ahead with vigour and creativity, becoming in the process an exemplar for others.  The University’s growth is apparent through many tangible indicators such as new campuses and programs; perhaps more important, the impact of the University is now evident through, for example, its research profile and its influential diaspora of graduates.  This impact has been validated by key agencies such as governments, international monitoring bodies and peer institutions.  One recent example has been the inclusion of clinical medicine in the top 100 programs in the world, an extraordinary achievement by a relatively young university working in the context of developing countries.

Having decided to support AKU in a tangible way, I considered several means of doing so. Possibilities included infrastructure, staff development, or specific programs and faculties.  My decision to focus on student support reflects the great respect I developed for the talented and committed students I had met at AKU, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, but with skills that blossomed in the supportive AKU environment.

Some of the additional reasons for my future gift:

  • Accountability and impact have always been integral to AKU.  These guiding characteristics help explain the reputation AKU has developed for integrity, a virtue which can be hard to find in some of the countries AKU serves. 

  • A unique characteristic of AKU has been the support given to and received from the Aga Khan Development Network, particularly in the areas of schooling and health care.

  • The impact of the Aga Khan University is not just “academic.”  AKU has responded quickly and effectively to urgent social and national crises such as devastating floods and pandemics. 

  • AKU has never been able to take an “off the shelf” approach to development.  Innovation and adaptation have needed to be cornerstones of AKU’s approach and mandate. 

The significance of AKU to former faculty members such as myself is both personal and professional. It would be difficult not to be touched by the experience of working at AKU. Creating an endowment has been a way for me to acknowledge AKU, an institution which I greatly value.​

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 himself or herself, a family member, or anyone else he or she might wish to honour and memorialise.  What is more, an endowed fund grows over time, with the endowment as a whole, thus increasing the good it does.