SOAS University of London

Education must combat ignorance, insists SOAS Honorary Fellow

24 June 2013
Prof Khalili pic

In a recent speech, Professor Nasser D. Khalili said education must be the solution to the biggest weapon of mass destruction, ignorance.

The world-renowned collector and SOAS, University of London Honorary Fellow, Professor Khalili, made the comments in his inspiring commencement address to the 2013 Graduating Class of Queens College, City University of New York.

The scholar and philanthropist arrived in the US from Iran aged 21 with nothing more than a suitcase and US$750, and graduated from the University in the early 1970s.

Professor Khalili, also a visiting Professor of Art and Archaeology at SOAS, encouraged graduates to lead by example and build bridges wherever they go. Born into the Jewish faith, he explained people are often surprised he has focused extensively on collecting Islamic treasures.

However, in his speech he explained: “Art has the ability to transcend nationalism and cultural borders” and “first we are born human beings and our religion is secondary”. He urged people to show love, compassion, peace, harmony, unity and respect among each other.

To the graduating audience the scholar provided four key lessons drawn from his life from Iran to becoming a world-renowned art collector. Firstly, there is very little in life you cannot achieve if you dream, plan and pursue - Professor Khalili’s three components in the “triangle of success”.

Secondly, pursue everything in life with a passion; thirdly, never be afraid to be yourself - mistakes and setbacks often become the cornerstone of success and, fourthly, show patience, stay focused and concentrate on your goal.

Professor Khalili was made an Honorary Fellow by SOAS in 1992. Throughout his long association with SOAS he has made many important contributions to the School. He is a visiting Professor of Art and Archaeology at SOAS and was a member of the Governing Body for 15 years. He is also the founder of the Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art and the main Khalili Lecture Theatre in the Philips Building has been named in his honour and in recognition of his support.

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Education must combat ignorance, insists SOAS Honorary Fellow