In an unprecedented move, the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University have decided to award His Highness the Aga Khan with honorary doctorate of law degrees from each institution in a joint conferral ceremony.
Both degrees will be conferred together at a ceremony in Vancouver on October 19 to recognize the Aga Khan’s lifelong service to humanity and his work at the post-secondary institutions, according to a release.
The Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary spiritual leader, or Imam, of 15 million Shia Ismali Muslims worldwide (over 100,000 in Canada). He also founded the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) – a global network of development agencies that have collaborated and partnered with public and private institutions around the world, including governments, universities, hospitals, foundations, and other civil society organizations.
His approach has been described as pluralist, cosmopolitan ethic, and one that embraces human diversity.
“We applaud His Highness the Aga Khan’s outstanding humanitarian contributions,” said Santa Ono, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor, in a statement.
“In his capacity as spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslim community, his commitment to helping fight poverty and improve health and education for millions of people in underdeveloped and war-torn parts of the world is truly remarkable, and serves as an inspiration to us all.”
“His Highness has demonstrated an exemplary international commitment to address the needs of others,” SFU President and Vice-Chancellor Andrew Petter added. “He has in this context supported programs at both of our universities, and we are grateful for his generosity in promoting positive change in the lives of young people and in advancing the well-being of the communities we serve.”
The AKDN has also worked with Canadian governments and organizations, including both UBC and SFU.
UBC’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Education team of faculty and adjunct faculty, for instance, have worked with the AKDN by providing mentorship to and evaluation of teachers in Kenya seeking IB certification.
And SFU’s Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies and the Aga Khan University’s Institute of the Study of Muslim Civilizations partnered to create Espressions of Diversity, a renowned summer school on Muslim diversity.
Next month, the Aga Khan will also be receiving an honorary degree from the University of Calgary.