Honouring a nation builder

This spring, students at York University received a nod of encouragement from Ghalib Iqbal, Pakistan’s consul general in Toronto. Iqbal paid a special visit to the University to present a cheque on behalf of the Pakistani community to the York University Foundation. The gift of $25,000 will be endowed to establish the Jinnah, Founder of Pakistan Scholarship at York University.

Above, from left to right: Paul Marcus, Bonnie Neuman, Ghalib Iqbal and Lorna R. Marsden

The scholarship’s unique name celebrates the contributions of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a barrister and visionary, who played a key leadership role in the creation of the nation of Pakistan in 1947. Jinnah is often credited by historians as one of the great nation builders of the early 20th century. 

“Jinnah was a great man and yet he did not get the proper exposure to the West or to universities,” said Iqbal. “We honour him with this scholarship and hope it will help to build a link between York University and the Pakistani community.” The scholarship will be given annually to one continuing undergraduate student at York who has demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence and leadership.

Left: Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah

Shadzah Shah, a student in the Atkinson School of Administrative Studies program, played an instrumental role in establishing the scholarship. Shah, who is president of the year-old Pakistani Students Association, met with Iqbal and members of the Pakistani community to discuss the needs of York’s diverse student population. The decision to create the scholarship came about as a result of those discussions.

For the international students who worked with Shah to establish the criteria for the scholarship, the result has created a feeling of pride and attachment to the York community. “This scholarship reinforces what South Asian students and all students are feeling – a need for community, reminders of home, and a supportive environment in which to learn,” said Shah. 

Iqbal said that he had initially thought of approaching the Pakistani government with the idea for the scholarship and then, during his conversations with members of the Pakistani community in Toronto, a huge level of interest in the scholarship developed and within a very short time, he had amassed enough funds to establish the scholarship. He delighted guests by announcing that the support was continuing to grow and a second installation of $25,000 to the scholarship would be possible in the future.

“This generous expression of support from members of the Pakistani community will enrich the learning environment here at York and contribute to greater cross-cultural understanding,” said Lorna R. Marsden, president and vice-chancellor of York University. “This new scholarship will serve as a vivid reminder to students and faculty of Pakistani origin that they are part of a proud tradition of leadership and achievement.”

Right, from left to right: Shadzah Shah, Barry Wilding of the York University Foundation and Lorna R. Marsden






“A scholarship can have a tremendous impact on a student’s life and make so many things possible,” said York’s Vice-President Students, Bonnie Neuman.

Consul general since 2002, Iqbal is a distinguished diplomat who has served in a number of important positions, including several senior posts in Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On a personal level, he cares very much for young people he meets on a daily basis as consul general. Many of the students who were at the event said they had been invited to Iqbal’s home for meals, and holidays.

“These are our future leaders of Canada,” said Iqbal, “As the senior generation, our responsibility is to ensure they grow in a comfortable atmosphere.”

To end the celebration, a delighted Iqbal had one more announcement for the audience. “We will also offer an essay writing contest for the best research paper on Jinnah, for publication in a Pakistani newspaper,” he said. “The winner will receive $1,500.”