Hafiz Siddiqi can contemplate life from the height of his 83 years with quiet satisfaction. What does a man think about as time ticks its unrelenting rhythm towards the end? Much in the minds of men of such age is to look back and contemplate what this has all been about.
First, there are the values, old and too often forgotten of honour, loyalty, courage, integrity. How has one measured up in maintaining such values? As Hafiz thinks on these matter, he can, with confidence, know that his life has been shaped and fulfilled by these values. In a world that is rapidly discarding these measures, he has stuck with them.
Living in a society that has largely abandoned accomplishment in favour of thirsting for cars with flagstaffs; that cheers on those proclaiming oneself great; that recognises unearned, fancy titles; that believes one is superior by flaunting appalling, gross taste; and is now populated with egos driven by greed, Hafiz has stayed clear of this moral corruption and lived by the compelling values of honour, loyalty, courage, and integrity.
That his behaviour puzzles or annoys so many of those who have worked around him proves the point. A man who wants to flourish must seek to achieve three goals: Sustain a long and loving marriage, father honourable children, and achieve meaningful career accomplishments. In each of these three dimensions, Hafiz has lived a life in full.
He married Najma Siddiqi. They have had a long life together of sharing and working. She became a professor and taught philosophy at Jahangirnagar University. She gave her family a strong moral compass. In a world of broken families, of betrayal and selfishness, a couple that clings to each other through youth, raising children, and old age is a wonder.
From this marriage there are two children, a boy Asif Azam Siddiqi and a girl Dina Mahnaz Siddiqi. Both have grown up to be persons of integrity. Although both are successful in their endeavours, that is not relevant.
It is the character of the children that represents the contribution of the parents. Parents who brag about their children’s wealth or academic achievements miss the point, as if the accomplishments of the children belonged to the parents.
The outcome of the efforts of mothers and fathers is different. It is the kind of person the child becomes: Honest, disciplined, hardworking, compassionate, unselfish, understanding that there is more to life that money and fame. Without question, Najma and Hafiz achieved this outcome with Dina and Asif.
A man who wants to flourish must seek to achieve three goals: Sustain a long and loving marriage, father honourable children, and achieve meaningful career accomplishments
Finally, I turn to Hafiz’s career accomplishments.
He was educated in the new approach to business administration developed by American business schools. He brought these ideas to life in Bangladesh.
Most of us go through life leaving little behind, and can hardly point to something that lasts 10 years after we die. Can you name 100 people who lived in the 18th century? Few businesses in Asia survive the death of their founders.Only a handful of great writers, musicians, and scientists leave work that remains relevant for more than 25 years.
What makes a great man
Twenty-five years is a reasonable period after you do something to test whether it has survived. Hafiz has done two great things.
First he was one of the small group that built the Institute for Business Administration (IBA) at DU. He was associated for 25 years with this institution.
If I choose 1990 as the time that Hafiz completed this task, then 27 years have passed.
After more than 25 years, IBA remains the most reputed and successful part of the Bangladesh university system.
The business community, the banks, the civil service are full of IBA graduates holding key positions.
One can say that the graduates of IBA are the backbone of the Bangladesh economy. Hafiz’s role in the building and operation of IBA deserves great thanks from everyone concerned with raising Bangladesh out of poverty.
Later, Hafiz became pro vice chancellor of North South University, and in 2001, Vice Chancellor.
The public universities were unable to supply enough graduates and there was an acute need for persons with business and computer science skills.
NSU was the first private university to be established in 1992 and, from the beginning, Hafiz sought to shape the university along the lines of an American university education.
This meant a curriculum with graduation requirements built on completing a certain number of courses rather than passing a major examination after years of study.
Many private universities accepted all applicants, being eager to collect as much revenue as possible even if risking the quality of the university education, but Hafiz enforced the rules needed to ensure prepared students while balancing available resources with the number of students.
Hafiz understood the importance of standards, as weak students pull down the quality of education provided to the better students.
The principles he established are sound guides for the future.The two leading business education institutions in the nation are both the result of Hafiz’s determination and principled administration.
Of course, many others contributed, but Hafiz has been the leader and must take the responsibility for the success or failure.
In both cases we can report real success.
A life of integrity, a long and happy marriage, two children of good character, and the builder of two leading education institutions, now that is a life in full.
Forrest Cookson is an American economist.