Aga Khan Awarded an Honorary Doctorate at Cambridge University - 2009-06-12
Cambridge, United Kingdom, 12th June 2009 - His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, today received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the University of Cambridge’s Pembroke College – the third oldest of the Cambridge colleges.
The Aga Khan becomes the first Muslim to receive the distinction in the University’s 800 year history.
“As we celebrate our eight hundredth anniversary, it is perhaps fitting that we first honour a man who traces his ancestry to the sixth century, and to the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him,” said Dr Rupert Thompson, classicist and Fellow of Selwyn College, in a citation read out in Latin in keeping with the College’s tradition. He went on to say: “Since becoming the fourth Aga Khan, he has worked tirelessly through his Development Network to ensure that those who are opressed by the worst poverty should enjoy a reasonable standard of healthcare, education and financial security. And this is not humanitarianism, as he says, but the requirement of his faith.”
“The Honorary Doctorate of Divinity is awarded to individuals who have made a global impact through their religious leadership," said Tim Winter, Academic Secretary in the Faculty of Divinity. "I am delighted that His Highness the Aga Khan, whose charitable and spiritual leadership has a truly worldwide reach, and whose support for scholarship has impacted profoundly on Islamic Studies, should have been chosen for this well-deserved honour.”
The Aga Khan was among a distinguished group of 12 people who were presented Honorary Degrees by the Chancellor of the University, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Bill and Melinda Gates, who both received Doctor of Law degrees, and Professor Amartya Sen, who received a Doctor of Letters, were among the other recipients.
Honorary Doctorates are the University's highest honour. Recent recipients of the Honorary Doctorate of Divinity include John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of Cape Town, and the United Kingdom ’s Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks.
The award of an honorary degree to the Aga Khan coincided with the signing of a scholarship agreement between the Cambridge Overseas Trust and the University of Central Asia (UCA). The UCA will eventually comprise three campuses being built in moutnainous areas -- in Khorog , Tajikistan ; Tekeli , Kazakhstan ; and Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic .
The University of Central Asia Cambridge Scholarships , which are fully funded, will enable outstanding young students from Central Asia to study for higher degrees at Cambridge . The agreement was signed by the Director of the Cambridge Overseas Trust and the Director of the University of Central Asia. The signing was witnessed by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge , Professor Alison Richard, and His Highness the Aga Khan.
While at Cambridge , the Aga Khan, who was accompanied by members of his family, visited the Pembroke College Library and a special exhibition of the College’s treasures.