By Dr Vishnu Bisram
Immigrants have been coming to America for centuries attracted to it by stories of boundless opportunities. Few immigrants are not success stories or have not improved their quality of life relative to the home country. One stand out example is that of Frank Islam who hails from Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh (UP), India. Many indentured laborers come from Azamgarh and their descendants from Guyana, Trinidad, etc. now settle in USA. Islam was a pioneer among Indian immigrants pursuing tertiary education in America, becoming a trailblazer in wealth accumulation and philanthropy giving back some of what he earned to help others. He became well-known and respected by prominent Americans (including Presidents, Governors, etc.) especially in the political establishment and humanitarian groups in the USA. He has been recognized and honored for being a role model and his charitable activities.
Islam came from a humble family that prized education and work ethic. And he used these qualities to pursue education and become a success story in the US. He has used his wealth to help others in America as well as groups in India.
Islam came to the US in 1970 almost penniless, studied computer science, while worked his way to pay for school. After earning MS in computer science, he worked full time for different companies for two decades. Then, after getting married, and his wife decide they would launch their own company. They founded the QSS Group, an information technology firm, in 1994. The QSS Group had more than 3,000 employees and some $300 million revenue. They sold the company in 2007 and set up a private investment holding company, FI Investment Group. Then they used the proceeds from their investment to set up their Driesman Foundation that focuses mostly, though not exclusively on supporting public education in America and India – on training newer generations in business, management, education, art and culture, and peace and conflict-resolution Frank Islam and Debbie and other fields. Islam prides himself on offering support for the poor to lift themselves. He sponsors programs that help to change people’s life and outcomes of society. He has also involved himself in activities to benefit the Democratic party and communities.
During his professional career, he garnered multiple industry awards for business leadership, entrepreneurship, and excellence. And for his outstanding contributions to humanity, Islam received honorary doctorates from several universities including Aligarh University (UP) and Maulana Azad University (Rajasthan).
In accepting his multiple doctorates, Islam stated that he did so with “humility not for me, but in recognition of all those who have made a difference in society through their leadership, education, and public service.” In addition to receiving honorary doctorates for his achievements and contributions to humanitarian causes, Islam was honored by a Kerala-based Cochin Herald journal for his efforts to promote education. Islam said he has been investing in education because it “provides ‘the keys to the kingdom”.
Dr. Islam was also honored by the Montgomery Business Hall of Fame for his successful business achievement. He helped in fundraising drives for scholarships at the Universities at Shady Grove, Maryland. He told a gathering as a patron of a fundraiser: “If it weren’t for education and people willing to help me when I came to this country as a very young man, I would not be where I am today. I know first-hand that education helps people reach their potentials, get good jobs and make their communities stronger.”
Islam has left an indelible imprint in the Indian American community.
Indian diaspora in America ought to be proud of his achievement and his generosity. He has shown that through personal sacrifices and dint of hard work, one can succeed in the US.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.