“In the 21st century, the globe will define the real territory in which you graduates will work even if you spend the rest of your career here in Minnesota or in the upper mid-west. That sense of being instantly and internationally connected makes this century that we’ve entered so different from the last.” With these words Mr Thomas Fisher, Professor and Dean for the College of Design of the University of Minnesota, addressed the graduating class of 2010 last May. Over 1500 graduates and their families attended.
“We are all now connected digitally, socially, economically and environmentally to everyone and everything else as they are to us, and figuring out how to imagine and create a world.
“All of which brings me to today’s commencement speaker, Hani Ayad, who once upon a time sat right where you graduates are sitting today.”
Thus began the ceremony of honouring the Egyptian Architect Hani Ayad by the University of Minnesota in USA, as being the first Distinguished International Leadership Recipient for its award.
According to Mr Fisher, Hani Ayad exemplifies the global practitioner. He was born in Cairo and earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cairo University in 1977. As a student, he interned in Cairo as well as in Milan, Italy where his projects included the Central Hospital for Burundi in Africa and a primary school in Rome. Working for Cairo architectural firms after graduation, he designed everything from restaurants to residential spaces and high rise office buildings before heading to the United States for his graduate study.
Mr Ayad earned his Master Degree in Architecture from the University of Minnesota in 1984 at a time when Computer Aided Design was just emerging. He became a pioneer and early adopter of that new technology.
In 1991, Mr Ayad returned to Egypt and became one of the first team members of the Swiss based Orascom Development Group, and is currently the Senior Vice President of Design and Destinations Planning for the firm. Examples of his work include al-Gouna tourist town on the Red sea, Taba Heights overlooking Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, Tala Bay Jordon’s first integrated resort and residential community and The Cove project featuring exclusive residents on the Arabian Gulf in the United Arab Emirates.
Following the official commencement, Mr Ayad and his wife Mary were invited to a reception at Rapson Hall, at the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library across the street. Several of his professors, American friends and colleagues joined.
Mr Fisher summed up the event beautifully when he said all those who ever dealt with Mr Ayad deeply appreciated his wonderful humour and humility. “You have touched the lives of so many people,” he said.
20 June 2010