By Vishnu Bisram
They use their financial success to support worthy causes. They are Dr. Frank Islam and his wife Debbie Driesman who have established their Philanthropic Foundation.
The foundation focuses mostly, though not exclusively on supporting public education in America and India – on training newer generations in business, management, and other fields.
Dr. Islam is an extraordinary person. Islam was an active participant in the information technology, aerospace engineering services, and systems integration business for more than twenty-five years. During his professional career, he garnered multiple industry awards for business leadership, entrepreneurship, and excellence.
Islam came from very humble origins, studied very hard in early education and went to Aligarh Muslim University. Then he got accepted to study in the US at University of Colorado (Boulder), worked his way from his studies, graduated (MS), and founded a business that became very successful. In spite of his financial wealth and academic achievements, Islam is known for his humility and commitment to living modestly, showing that he has strong values and what it takes to create a successful life. He prides himself on offering support for the poor to lift themselves and teaching the necessary life skills to succeed in the world.
Islam came to the United States in 1970, with virtually no money. After earning MS in computer science, he worked for different companies for two decades. After marriage, he and his wife launched their own company, 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 set up their foundation to promote education, art and culture, and peace and conflict-resolution. The foundation has donated millions of dollars to various causes in the United States and India. they have helped to make a difference for many university students in India, funding education. The organizations and institutions the foundation has supported include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the United States Institute of Peace, Clinton Foundation, and the Aligarh Muslim University. At AMU, the foundation has funded the construction of multi-million dollar Frank and Debbie Islam Management Complex, and a state-of-the-art mass communication auditorium.
For his outstanding contributions to humanity, Islam received honorary doctorates from several universities including Aligarh University and Maulana Azad University (Jodhpur, Western Rajasthan). In accepting his 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 his speech to graduating students early January 2022 at Maulana Azad, Islam spoke about good citizenship. “Civic engagement is at the heart of good citizenship. It helps to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference.”
In his sermon to graduates, Islam said: “As I have made my journey, I have not always done so perfectly, but have done so with a commitment to always doing better and to helping others do the same. That has been my personal philosophy”.
The philanthropist said he has learned lessons from his journey: “Don’t think anything is impossible. No hope should be too high for you to achieve and no dream should be too large for you to achieve. Do well but also do good. Reach out and help those who are voiceless and vulnerable,” he said. “Help them through darkest moments of their lives.
Please remember when they succeed, all of us succeed. India succeeds. The world succeeds. Extend a hand, hope, heart, and help to those in the weaker sections, especially those who are socially and economically disadvantaged and who are less fortunate, reach out and help them with education and inclusive economic mobility.”
At another convocation on December 21, 2021, Islam delivered the convocation address at Mohanlal Sukhadia University in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Islam urged the graduating students to make their journey one of heart that will help make India and the world a better and fairer place.
He said: “I believe in the promise, potential, and possibilities of India.”
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”. He adds: “I have had a life-long passion and love for education. It is the great equalizer and an opportunity creator and bridge to the future. It enables and empowers individuals from humble backgrounds to develop the knowledge, skills and abilities required to compete in the arena with those individuals from the wealthiest of means.”
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: “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.”
In a speech at AMU convocation three years ago, he said: Having a dream is important, but to make it come true one needs good education and hard work. One should not only aim for doing well but also doing good. He said that giving back is one of saying thank you’”.
Islam not only donates money, but shares his experience, time, talent, skills, and giving advice to help create a better world. improve the quality of life for all. For his extraordinary activities, he has been recognized and honored by so many other entities.
Some of Dr. Islam’s other achievements included:
Ernst and Young – Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year;
US Small Business Administration Small Business Person of the Year for the Washington DC Metropolitan Area in 2001.
In 2014 — The Indus Entrepreneurs (Tie) Legends Award
– In 2015, Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award for International Service.
– In 2016, Montgomery County Business Hall of Fame Award
– In 2016, Interfaith Leadership Award
– In 2016, Global Leadership Award
And many more!
Dr. Islam devotes the majority of his time to a wide variety of civic and philanthropic activities and boards and advisory councils including the following:
− Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts ( 2013 to 2019)
− Board of Directors, Strathmore Center for the Arts (2008 to 2012)
− Ford’s Theater Society Board of Trustees (2016 to present)
− Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts (2013 to present)
− Member of Meridian Cultural Diplomacy Leadership Council (2020 to present)
− Member of UN Foundation Global Leadership Council(2020 to present)
− Member of Board of Directors of University System of Maryland Foundation (2020 to present)
− Woodrow Wilson Center National Cabinet (2012 to present)
− International Advisory Council of the U.S. Institute of Peace (2009 to present)
− National Democratic Institute (NDI) Chairman’s Council (2013 to 2016)
− Maryland Governor International Advisory Council (2011 to 2014)
− Department of Commerce Industry Trade Advisory Committee (ITAC) (2010 to 2018)
− Advisory Committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (2010 to 2011)
− Member of the JFK Library Foundation Board of Advisors (2017 to present)
− Member of the Mount Vernon Washington Cabinet (2020 to present)
− Member of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s the Monticello Cabinet (2019 to present)
− Founding Member of the Trust Leadership Council for the National Mall (2021 to present)
Higher Education Involvement
− Member of the advisory board at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Johns Hopkins University Advisory Council (2013 to 2016)
− Member of the advisory board of the University of Maryland Smith School of business (2009 to 2015)
− Member of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School Dean’s Advisory Council (2014 to 2019)
− George Mason University School of Management Dean’s Council (2012 to 2019)
− American University School of International Service Dean’s Council (2013 to present)
− University of Malaysia (UTM) International Advisory Panel (2012 to present)
− Board of Trustees of the American University in the Emirates (AUE) (2012 to present)
− Board of Trustees of the American University of Afghanistan (2015 to 2019)
− Board of Trustees of Marymount University (2015 to present)
− Member of Advisory Board of Harvard University Kennedy School of Government (2018 to present)
− The Frank Islam & Debbie Driesman CharitableFoundation ( President – 2007 to present)
− Board of Directors, Potomac Charities, Inc. ( Founding chairman – 2008 to the present)
− Board of Maryland-India Business Roundtable (Founding member -2003 and 2004)
− Board of Directors, The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), Washington, D.C. chapter (2007 to 2009)
− South Asia Center at Atlantic Council (Founding member)
In all of his endeavors, Dr. Islam said, “He strives to create opportunities that are sustainable and uplifting for humanity — guided by the virtues of hard work, focus, quality, innovation and kindness”.
Dr. Islam is also an excellent writer and thinker. Over the past several years, Islam penned countless articles in leading magazines and newspapers. In addition, he has authored two books: Working the Pivot Points: To Make America Work Again (2013); and, Renewing the American Dream: A Citizen’s Guide for Restoring Our Competitive Advantage (2010).
Frank blogs regularly for Medium and was a contributor to the Huffington Post for nearly a decade. He has had articles published in Foreign Policy, Washington Monthly and The Hill.
He also writes regular op-eds and articles for India for the Hindustan Times and distribution through the Indo-Asian News Service and articles for Pakistan posted in the Pakistan Daily Times.
He hosts his own TV show “Washington Current Review” on FOX 5 News and Washington Calling on South Asia Monitor (SAM) and is called upon to speak frequently in a variety of business, education and non-profit venues.
In 2018, Frank established the Frank Islam Institute for 21stCentury Citizenship which maintains a website (21stcitizen.net) containing his writings and other material directed at addressing the civic engagement deficit in the United States and internationally.
Dr. Islam is a role model to emulate. He is deserving of the highest accolades and honors of the US and India.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.