NED Alumni Share Views on September 8th Convention in San Jose

By Ras H. Siddiqui

Left to right: Riaz Haq, Idris Kothari and Safwan Shah

The NED University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi has a special place in the hearts and minds of thousands of its Alumni worldwide. This is certainly true of Pakistani-American graduates of this esteemed institution who are holding a Convention in San Jose, California on September 8, 2007 for the first time (Please see http://convention2007.nedians.org/html/convention2007.html for details or call 1 888 267 5951/ email svnedians@nedians.org.) The program for this event will incorporate both an all-day conference and an evening banquet. It is open to all as one does not have to be an NED alumnus to attend.
Re-established in March 1977 as a full-fledged university based on the former NED Government Engineering College, Karachi (named after Mr. Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw (NED), a well-known philanthropist from the Parsee/Zoroastrian community), NED was set up in 1922, and is the oldest engineering institution in Pakistan. Starting from an initial enrolment of 50 students in Civil Engineering more than seven decades ago, the student population is now around 4000 at the undergraduate and graduate levels in eight fields of engineering.
This institution was initially founded as Prince of Wales Engineering College with donations from the citizens of Karachi to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1921. It was renamed in 1924 as NED Engineering College in 1924 in memory of Mr. Dinshaw, whose heirs made substantial donations for its development at the time of his first death anniversary. It was renamed as NED Government Engineering College, Karachi after the birth of Pakistan and is now a proud university with a new campus adjoining the University of Karachi. However its old site still retains a sentimental value for those NEDians who graduated from there (and even for those who visited them).
Ras H. Siddiqui (RHS) sent out a number of questions to Riaz Haq, who is the President of the Silicon Valley Branch of the NED Alumni Association. He received replies from not just Mr. Haq but other members of the Executive Committee as well, namely Safwan Shah, Moin Ahmed and Idris Kothari along with photographs of the old NED campus from Mr. Mujib Ahmed (which we accept with thanks). An article in Urdu by Ali Hassan Cemendtau, a well-known area writer (and NED Alumni) was also sent in. Pakistan Link is now indirectly related to NED via its new owner Arif Mansuri who is an alumnus and will be on a panel during the upcoming convention.


Old campus of the NED University of Engineering and Technology

Due to space constraints, not all of the feedback could be reproduced here but presented below are replies to 10 questions, some in condensed form with associated first names of the individuals replying:
Q. After all of this time, why did NED Alumni choose this year to gather in Silicon Valley ?
Riaz: Moin Ahmed, my classmate from NED in 1974, started the effort two years ago and held conventions in 2005 and 2006 in Texas and New Jersey respectively. He saw the potential for organizing NED alums here in the valley and asked to help out. I agreed based on the fact that there are a significant number of very successful NED alums here in the valley. The response has been very encouraging.
Moin: Our first major Convention was held in Houston in 2005. Second was held in New Jersey and this is our Third Convention. We have decided to hold a Convention in a different city each year. And have been successfully doing it.
Idris: Because someone took the charge and called someone who called someone and the ball just kept on rolling.
Safwan: Being the technology hub, a large number of NEDians live in the Bay Area.
The number of influential NEDians has grown here. Some of the most successful NEDians are in Silicon Valley
Q. What do you hope to achieve at this first-ever official NED Alumni gathering in the Northern California area?
Riaz: To organize a critical mass of successful alums, talk about our history and heritage, highlight the accomplishments and give visibility to successful alums and then set up an endowment to give back to NED and the new generation of NEDians.
Moin: This may be the largest of our Alumni gatherings in California. We hope to reach out and touch all the Alumni that we possibly can and try to get them to attend the Convention, create a meaningful and long lasting Website for NEDians, obtain information about Alumni and NED activities and establish an Endowment Fund to address NED and Alumni issues.
Idris: To celebrate the institution that probably has as much to do with who I am today as my family is.
Safwan: To galvanize the NED community and create awareness around the rich history and heritage of NED. Also to set a standard for a professional alumni event and to carry out a litmus test on the real strength of the NED community
Q. When did you last visit the NED Campus yourself? What were your impressions during that visit?
Riaz: The last I visited was in 2001 but I have stayed engaged through various online communities
Moin: I visited NED Campus last in 2003 to meet my friend and batch mate Prof. Noman, Head of Electronics Dept. To me the "New" NED and hostels looked run down and in need of maintenance and repair.
Idris : Last month
Safwan: In 2003 and 2006, most recently. There have been a lot of improvements and there seems to be a lot of money to spend BUT NED seems unable to attract good faculty and is having a hard time competing with newly funded, more entrepreneurial schools that are getting built.
Q. Has there been any sustained initiative by NED Alumni in the United States to help their old College/University in any way that you are aware of?
Safwan: There have been many initiatives but not sustained. Since NED is a nationalized institution it is hard to work through the bureaucracy.
Idris: Several – there are several diehard NEDians right in the Bay Area who will just not give up.
Q. Have any Alumni here in the US ever thought of sending their kids to study Engineering at NED in Karachi and is there any provision made to accommodate young people from overseas there?
Riaz: I would send one of them to NED if I were in Karachi . It's a matter of convenience
Idris: No one I know – If they did – I am sure families would love to have them stay with them.
Safwan: It is not that easy to get admission in NED. It is a very competitive process and requires local domicile, etc. NED does not have a tradition of attracting foreign students. We used to get some students from Jordan and Iran in the 80’s and 90’s but that was never easy.
Q. NED is a classic example of the positive role that minorities have played in establishing institutions in what is present-day Pakistan (The Parsee community in particular). Will you be emphasizing or recognizing that role at the upcoming convention?
Moin: We have asked Ardesher Cowasjee, columnist for Dawn, and a prominent Parsee, to write us a few paragraphs on the "Role of Parsee Community in developing education in Karachi ." We have also asked Mr. Cowasjee to see if he can ask the great grand daughter of Mr. Nadirshaw Eduljee Dinshaw to see if she would be willing to preside at our Convention.
Safwan: NED is an amazing contribution by the philanthropists. We will be recognizing not only their role but also the Prince of Wales for being the first patron in 1921.
Perhaps we should also condemn the folks who nationalized the university.
Q. The choice of Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy as one keynote speaker is interesting. Is he an NED Alumni?
Idris: Oh come on – show me a better role model for the youth of today.
Riaz: Dr. Hoodbhoy, an MIT grad, has shown by his choice to forego opportunities he could have had here in US to return to Pakistan and serve the cause of science education for young people there. In addition, he has done serious research to understand the issues of science and tech education and can give us some insights on how we can help NED and NEDians.
Safwan: Pervez Hoodbhoy is a non-NEDian and is very familiar with the education system of Pakistan . He is also someone who is read and discussed for his outspoken and fearless views. He is someone who is from within the system. There are few role models of his stature in Pakistan .
Q. What would it take to establish a scholarship or two for deserving students to attend NED funded by your local Alumni and has your group thought about it?
Idris: Several Alumni have committed to start a fund. Scholarships would be the best way to help NED.
Safwan: We are announcing concrete steps towards this end. Endowment, scholarships, formal and sustainable funding for the Alumni association … are all part of the steps we are going to address and also announce in the convention-2007
Moin: The establishment of our NED Endowment Fund will make this possible also.
Riaz: An endowment fund is the first step toward that.
Q. Does NED have any official relationships with colleges here in the United States? Are any in our Northern California area?
Safwan: None that I know of. I do know that Professor Ali Minai from University of Cincinnatti, Ohio has set up the department of Bio-Engineering and also done other stuff. He will be here at the convention.
Moin: NED does have some official relationships with a couple of colleges where they send their teachers and Faculty for higher education.
Q. What do you attribute the success of NED alumni in the United States to?
Idris: To NED – of course….
Moin: It is natural after a new community settles down in any foreign country and starts getting wealthy to think about philanthropic efforts to help their country of origin. I think NEDians have in the last 40-50 years established themselves and a lot of them are now well off to help NED.
Safwan: Because NEDians are very resourceful and have a long history of role models. Each batch has some role models to derive inspiration from. The US celebrates and rewards resourceful and creative people. NEDians are extremely resourceful and some of the best of available talent. There are only 500 students admitted on pure merit: Another 150 to 200 on various quotas. The pure merit students are selected from over 50,000 candidates.
Riaz: It is a highly selective admission process to become a NEDian followed by the opportunity to learn with the best and the brightest in Pakistan. And the most entrepreneurial, risk-taking among us head out to the US and find a way to succeed on our own.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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