Middle East studies in the News
George Mason's Islamic Studies Center Founder Ali Vural Ak to Receive Honorary Degree [incl. Huseyin Yilmaz]
by Cathy Cruise
Among the impressive lineup of speakers for George Mason University's 2014 Winter Graduation ceremonies is entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of George Mason's Center for Global Islamic Studies, Ali Vural Ak. For his interest and support of Mason, Ak will also receive an honorary doctor of humane letters during the Dec. 18 ceremonies.
Ak created the Center for Global Islamic Studies on Mason's Fairfax Campus in 2009, and it has rapidly established itself as one of the most notable institutions in the field. Its mission is to promote a comprehensive, nuanced understanding of Muslim societies and of the Islamic faith, including Islam's role in world history, and its current patterns of globalization. By providing educational and research opportunities for students, faculty and visiting scholars, and organizing scholarly and cultural activities that host critical discussion and informed engagement, the center cultivates leaders who carry into the world a refined knowledge of the complex dynamics of Muslim communities worldwide.
Mason professor Huseyin Yilmaz, co-director of the center, says Ak's success in business and in philanthropic activities, most of which center on education, have been a continuous source of inspiration for the center. Yilmaz adds that Ak "has established a cordial rapport with both faculty and students at the center and continues to extend his support in bridging academia with business, philanthropy and education at large.
"Mr. Ak's dedication, success and recognition in education and academics is no less than his entrepreneurship in business. His foundational grant for the Center for Global Islamic Studies is a result of his commitment to the advancement of in-depth knowledge and critical inquiry into the study of Muslim societies."
Ak's imprint on the business world began early. When he was a student of international political relations at Boğazici University in Turkey, he came up with the idea of establishing his own firm, and in 1991 created Intercity Rent A Car. This daily car rental business has, over the past two decades, become a key player in the fleet management industry and the biggest car leasing company in Turkey.
Ak created a "one-stop solution" integrated business model for Intercity, and was able to not only educate banks and financial institutions about the operational aspects of the leasing business, but convinced them to advance the industry as well, resulting in an investment exceeding EUR 1.5 billion over the past decade.
In 2005, Ak was named one of the top five country finalists of the World Entrepreneur of the Year award, organized by Ernst & Young International. And in 2008, after partnering with several public finance bodies, he sold 47 percent of Intercity to Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi UFJ Lease & Finance Company. Today, Ak remains a founder, majority shareholder and active general manager of Intercity, which brings in EUR 250 million in annual sales.
Among Ak's many philanthropic ventures, which range from cultural events to fair trade initiatives, is his "1 Million Walnut Trees" project. Ak used his involvement in almond and walnut production to help distribute walnut trees to as many as 100,000 needy families in Turkey. The income generated from the trees will be used to fund their children's educations from kindergarten through college.
And because poor driving skills result in a large number of injuries and deaths in Turkey, Ak founded a driving academy that provides intensive daily driving instruction for up to 50,000 individuals per year.
Ak's personal interests also center on cars, as well his passion for speed. He enjoyed a career in car racing that garnered him a number of national and international awards, and he continues to organize large motor sports events in Turkey. He is married to Nur Ak and has a two-year-old daughter, Ayse Ece.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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