Finally arriving at a much-anticipated moment, graduands of AKU’s Class of 2022 walked across the stage under the beautiful shamiyana structure set up at AKU’s campus in Karachi — and across similar stages at AKU’s campuses in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Kampala. Princess Zahra delivered a convocation address to guests, which included a special message from Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Graduation ceremonies are always a special occasion. But today’s ceremony at the Aga Khan University represented a three-fold celebration: AKU’s 40th anniversary; the inaugural Founder’s Day commemoration; and the success of AKU’s Class of 2022.

Dressed in the traditional regalia of green and gold, graduands and their families, AKU’s Board of Trustees, supporters, and well-wishers gathered in-person and joined remotely via live stream to take part in the landmark event. As part of the commemorations, Princess Zahra, the longest-serving member on AKU’s Board of Trustees, delivered a keynote address to guests at the convocation.

She offered her admiration and gratitude to all those who made it possible for the University to progress to where it is today, in its 40th year. Princess Zahra also thanked the healthcare professionals at AKU and elsewhere who have worked bravely to care for patients during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Your work has been a magnificent gift to the world,” she said. 

Princess Zahra’s address also included a special message from the Chancellor, Mawlana Hazar Imam. His message noted one of AKU’s most indelible accomplishments in its 40 year history: that it has become a source of hope for so many.

“From the patients who seek relief from suffering at its hospitals, to the parents who dream of seeing their children don its graduation robes – AKU’s name conjures hope. There is no force more powerful or more needed today. When we plant hope in people’s lives, we lighten all their burdens. It is a source of energy and inspiration that is endlessly renewable.” 

This hope was evident at the ceremony in the faces of graduands and faculty, newly invigorated to go forth and serve their communities with bravery, resilience, and fortitude.

Class Valedictorians Shazma Jaffer and Mian Arsam Haroon paid tribute to their fellow students, who now make the transition from pupils to practitioners — and to all those who have supported their journey from the very beginning, every step of the way.

“You have worked very hard to reach this special moment,” remarked the event’s Chief Guest, Syed Murad Ali Shah, Chief Minister of Sindh. “The degree that you have earned at the prestigious Aga Khan University will serve you well as you launch your careers,” he assured them.

President Sulaiman Shahabuddin, delivering his second convocation address, commended the graduating students across all of AKU’s campuses around the world.

“The Class of 2022 stands ready to play its role,” he said, “ready to deliver compassionate care, to inform the public, to transform schools into places of discovery, and so much more,” President Sulaiman added. “Congratulations on a formidable job well done.” 

He additionally remarked on the University’s phenomenal growth in such a short timeframe.

“Standing here on Stadium Road, I can’t help but recall that this campus was once a dusty plot of land on the outskirts of Karachi. Look at it now! We can take a desert and make it bloom – with intellect, optimism, and our brilliant green and gold.”

The event also offered an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of faculty and staff members, past and present — who continue to serve, year-after-year, with kindness and compassion.

Special awards were conferred upon distinguished alumni and leadership to commemorate Founder’s Day, including the first ever President’s Medal. Distinguished University Professor Emeritus Cameruddin Vellani, received the Medal for his extensive contributions to AKU since 1979, well before AKU received its charter. An Honorary Degree was also conferred on  Lee Hilling, Chairman of the Board of the French Medical Institute for Mothers and Children in Kabul, Afghanistan. Lee has served in many roles at AKDN over a period of 26 years, and becomes only the 9th recipient of an Honorary Degree from AKU, the University’s highest award of distinction.

Finally, this year’s Convocation, which coincided with AKU’s inaugural Founder’s Day, provided all those in attendance an occasion to honour the long-term vision and many years of dedication of the University’s founder and Chancellor, Mawlana Hazar Imam. His message included a glimpse at the future of the institution, influenced by the legacy of the past, and informed by the needs of the present:

“AKU’s purpose must remain lucid and constant, transcending the generations even as it is reborn in each new generation’s passion and commitment,” said Princess Zahra, quoting Hazar Imam’s message.

“Together, all of us are the custodians of the founding vision,” he added. “Our history gives us every reason to believe that so long as we remain true to that vision, AKU’s light – the light depicted in the University’s seal – will grow ever brighter, helping to illuminate the path to a better future for the people it serves.”