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Dr. David J. Skorton, President of Cornell University (2006 - )

Thoughts from President David J. Skorton, delivered by Provost W. Kent Fuchs at the launch of the Diwan Foundation at Cornell University, February 25, 2011

It’s a pleasure to join in the celebration of the launch of the Diwan Foundation. I’m delighted that our alumni have initiated this plan to enhance Muslim life at Cornell, especially by creating a Muslim chaplaincy, and also to serve as a resource for the entire Cornell community.

We are a very diverse community, with students from 111 countries at last count, and about 30 kinds of faith represented in Cornell United Religious Work. The university strives toward a welcoming environment and opportunities for growth for all its constituents, and I appreciate the partnership of the Diwan Foundation in enabling a better quality of life for our Muslim students, faculty, and staff members.

Unlike members of many other faiths, Muslims do not have a national organization to assist with religious life on campus. So I commend our Muslim alumni for responding to the need and taking on this challenge. Through the foundation, all members of the Cornell community will have greater access to knowledge of Islam as a religion and a culture. In a world that is badly in need of intercultural understanding, this is a strong step forward.

In fact, Muslims at Cornell already reach out for greater understanding by opening up the annual Eid al-Fitr Banquet. Sponsored by the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, this event brings together Muslims who hail from many parts of the world and also people of very different faiths.

As important as such events are, much more could be done with appropriate leadership, and Cornell’s Muslim students, staff, and faculty have expressed the need for a full-time chaplain on campus. Such a person can guide our young people in the many choices they face during their college careers, as well as supporting older people as they face their own life issues. Through the Diwan Foundation, Cornell Muslims will have a trained person to play that important role.

I am grateful to the many Cornellians who have helped to create and advise the Diwan Foundation. Dr. Saeed Bajwa, parent of three Cornellians, is a generous donor and chair of the Board of Advisors for the foundation. Thanks are also due to the president of the foundation, Dr. Jarra Jagne, and to numerous other alumni who have taken on leadership roles, including Nadeem Shafi, Fatima Iqbal, Jainal Bhuiyan, and Shaan Rizvi. It speaks well of all of you that would devote so much time and effort to bettering the lives of today’s students and others at Cornell. Finally, I thank the faculty members who have served as liaisons for this initiative, Professors Iftikhar Dadi of History of Art and Shawkat Toorawa of Near Eastern Studies.

I am proud to celebrate with you as we look forward to welcoming Cornell’s first full-time Muslim chaplain and to further strengthening the Diwan Foundation and its impact on the life of our community.

Student Endorsement

Right now, the only resource Muslim students have is each other. The burden for taking care of our fellow Muslims falls on us students, and along with school, job applications, and graduate school applications, it's just too much. We don't have the resources, nor the expertise, to help each other with religious advice, mental health issues, or personal crises. A Muslim chaplain would help take this burden off of students and help take our community to new heights. – Ihsan Kabir ‘14




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