Charles Nailen/The Hoya University President John J. DeGioia presents Nemir Amin Kirdar, president and CEO of Investcorp, with an honorary Georgetown University degree in Gaston Hall on Mon.

Nemir Amin Kirdar, President and CEO of Investcorp, was proclaimed a Doctor of Humane Letters in honor of his work in encouraging peaceful and cooperative international relations. Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia conferred the Honorary Degree in Gaston Hall on Monday.

Kirdar served as the chairman of the Board of Advisors of Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies for over a decade and recently retired. Kirdar and his company, Investcorp, financed the construction of a wing of the Intercultural Center, which houses CCAS today. He has also been a member of the School of Foreign Service Board of Visitors.

The ceremony opened with a prayer recited by Rev. Solomon Sara, associate professor of linguistics. Sara said that Iraq is the land of great scientists, artists and gods, and he prayed that there would not be a massive genocide or a second Holocaust in Iraq. He asked the audience to pray for peace, rather than the destruction of war.

Dr. Michael C. Hudson, Seif Gobash Professor of Arab Studies said that Kirdar “enhanced intercultural understanding and dialogue between, rather than a clash of civilizations.”

School of Foreign Service Dean Robert L. Gallucci read the degree citation in English, while Dr. Barbara F. Stowasser, director of Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, presented it in Arabic.

Kirdar began his acceptance speech with advice to students who were not accepted to Georgetown, a rejection he once experienced. He counseled that rejected students should not lose hope and recalled an Iraqi saying. “If you don’t get in through the door, try the window . then the chimney. If you don’t get a real degree, get an honorary one.”

The theme of Kirdar’s speech was centered on the quality of education in developing countries, which he said is vital to the “future safety and prosperity of the world.”

Kirdar asserted that some countries refused to change their education systems because they wanted to preserve their local culture and identity. Accordingly, these countries, which often have closed economies, can get away with a narrow spectrum of views. “It’s not a viable option anymore,” Kirdar said.

Kirdar pointed out that borders and barriers are disappearing, and markets are integrating after globalization. It is not only products that cross boundaries, but also education, skills and knowledge, he said. Kirdar acknowledged, however, that globalization widens the gap between those who have access to knowledge and resources and those who do not.

China was used as an example of a country that could adapt its educational system to world standards. China’s skilled work force is a big advantage in the competitive world economy, but at the same time, the Chinese have not lost their traditions or culture.

Kirdar put the world’s countries into three categories with respect to their approach to education. The countries having the financial resources to build schools and that employ a “scientific approach to education” fall into the first category, he said. The one billion people who get the 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product live in these countries, according to Kirdar. He emphasized that the schools in these countries train students to take initiative rather than to be obedient.

“More people should generate and share in world’s prosperity,” he said. “The others should have access to same standards of education.”

The “desperately poor” countries, which have no means to build schools, fall into the second category.

The countries falling into the third category, however, create the greatest danger. These countries appreciate the value of learning and take pride in the resources they put in it, he said, but “they do not realize the content and quality of a world-standard education . the danger is providing the graduate with a degree but no skills.” According to him, many iddle Eastern countries fall into this category.

He used the metaphor of hardware and software to explain his thesis. Kirdar argued that physical conditions, like the schools, constitute the hardware. The culture and the substance of the education, on the other hand, constitute the software.

The culture of educational system in these countries is based on authority and obedience, he said. In his opinion, the flow of information is in one direction and students are merely tested on “how they can recite what they are taught.” Another problem lies with the substance of the education.

Kirdar ended his speech on a personal note. He was born to a uslim family in Kerkuk, Iraq and received his B.A. from Robert College in Istanbul, then earned his MBA from Fordham University.

Kirdar’s parents wanted all five of their sons to have world-class educations. After the “sudden and brutal collapse” of Iraq in 1958, the family had to “start [their] lives from scratch, leaving everything [they] had or inherited in Iraq.”

According to Kirdar, his father knew that “education is far more important than inherited money or position.” Kirdar’s father advised him to be “trusted, respected and needed” if he wanted to achieve success. In other words, he wanted Kirdar to have skills that would put him in high demand.

The ceremonies ended with the closing prayer led by Georgetown’s Muslim Chaplain Imam Yahya Hendi.

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