​​​​​​​Commencement 2010: Founding President's Welcome

Professor Choon Fong Shih
Founding President
Welcome Remarks
December 16, 2011
Planting Rice, Planting Trees and More

Your Excellency, Ali Al-Naimi, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Members of the Board of Trustees
Faculty and Staff
Class of 2011 and Families
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen


On this splendid afternoon with clear blue skies and a light breeze, I extend my warm welcome to all of you to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. What a beautiful day to gather here by the Red Sea for our University's second Commencement. Today, we award Master’s degrees to 244 young men and young women.

Class of 2011, our heartiest congratulations to each one of you. Alf Mabrook!

You placed your confidence and trust in our very young University, one without a track record, when you joined us. And in your time with us, you have contributed to the early growth of our University. We commend your adventurous, courageous and pioneering spirit.

I want to thank your families and friends for their openness to your coming to a new and unfamiliar community sprouting near a fishing village on the shores of the Red Sea. We thank them, too, for their devotion and support, especially for the spouses and children who journeyed by your side and became part of our campus community.

I also want to welcome the many families who have travelled from near and far, from all corners of the world, to join us today. We are honored that your families came to celebrate this special day with us.

I would also like to recognize our faculty, who have taught and mentored you. They have shared their passion for knowledge and discovery. They have helped you get to this proud day.

To our staff and administrators across the University, families and members of our larger community, let me say a big thank you. You have all contributed to growing a campus community that learns and lives as well as works and plays together. You have contributed to a richer community experience for our students and all of us.

I would like to express special appreciation to our Chairman and all members of our Board of Trustees. Your support in our endeavor to build a world-renowned research university of science and technology, a new House of Wisdom, has been unwavering. For this, we are immensely grateful.

Now, please join me in showing our appreciation for everyone.

Class of 2011, Commencement marks the beginning of a new chapter in your lives. Today, we celebrate this beginning with you.

Some of you have chosen to stay on to pursue a PhD and write a new chapter here. Many will be leaving what has been your home by the Red Sea, to go forth and begin your careers here in the Kingdom or elsewhere in the world. As you embark on the next lap of your journey, I would like to share a few thoughts with you.

More than two millennia ago, Confucius, the great Chinese teacher, said,

"If you are planning for one year, plant rice. 
If you are planning for ten years, plant trees. 
If you are planning for one hundred years, educate the people."​ For Confucius, the power of education is far-reaching and enduring. Just as trees may take tens of years to multiply and grow into a thriving forest, the greatest benefits of education multiply and are often seen decades later. The most profound impact of education grows with the years and cascades through future generations. Indeed, education is about the creation of our future.

For our University, we must never lose sight of our ambition to help create a better future for a world that faces immense and complex challenges. At the same time, we also want to work on challenges of today and tomorrow, endeavors with one-year and ten-year horizons. We do want to plant rice AND we do want to plant trees.

Class of 2011, you have received a KAUST education. You have worked with your professors on research that seeks to address some of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges – relating to water, food, energy and the environment. In your time here, you have written theses and published articles. These publications will not be the final chapter. In fact, some of you will continue working on these research projects for your PhD dissertations. Some among you have been tinkering with and perhaps even prototyping new devices, aspiring to become entrepreneurs who will bring innovative solutions to the marketplace. In your own ways, you are contributing to finding solutions for the challenges of today and tomorrow. You are helping our University plant rice and plant trees.

Your next challenge – as is ours as a University – is to look ten years down the road and beyond. I see you building careers and nurturing families. Through your endeavors in building your careers and nurturing your families, you help educate the people. As you give your best in all that you do, I see your KAUST education multiplying through the people you work with and come to influence positively. I see your education also multiplying through your children, through your children’s children, and for future generations to come. Indeed, your ideas and your values, shaped by your KAUST education, hold the promise, in turn, to shape our collective future.

Class of 2011, today you turn the page and start a new relationship with your alma mater. Today, you become our cherished alumni, the pride of the collective labors of our faculty, our staff and our community. Today, you become ambassadors for our young University in our mission to bring knowledge in fruitful service to humankind. As you go from Thuwal and multiply what you gained here and help create a better tomorrow for this region and the world, you are also our hope for the future.

Graduates, take with you our can-do spirit. Take with you our courage, ambition and passion to make a difference. Through you, King Abdullah’s noble vision of a new House of Wisdom will live on.

I hope the friendships begun here in our home by the Red Sea will also live on. I wish you all the very best in your future endeavors.

Thank you. Shukran.