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President McDavis to confer honorary degree on Malaysian Prime Minister at ninth Tun Abdul Razak Lecture

On Jan. 15, a team of Ohio University faculty and administrators will gather with alumni and friends in Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, for the ninth Tun Abdul Razak Lecture. Prior to the lecture, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis will confer an honorary degree upon Malaysian Prime Minister Yang Amat Berhormat Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak.

The Tun Abdul Razak Lecture is the signatory event of a 32-year partnership between Ohio University and the Malaysian government. Central to this partnership is the Tun Abdul Razak Chair, a prestigious endowed faculty position at Ohio University that works to foster cross-cultural understanding of Malaysia-American perspectives.

Every two years, Malaysia's Ministry of Higher Education, in consultation with the Razak Council (made up of former Tun Razak Chairs) and Ohio University, selects a Malaysian scholar to serve as the Tun Abdul Razak Chair. Named in honor of the second Prime Minister of Malaysia and housed in Ohio University's Center for International Studies, the Tun Abdul Razak Chair teaches, conducts research and performs regional and national outreach activities in an effort to disseminate knowledge about Malaysia and to improve the understanding of and appreciation for Malaysia among key American publics.

"The Tun Abdul Razak Chair has provided Ohio University with unparalleled access to outstanding international scholars," said Pam Benoit, executive vice president and provost at Ohio University. "Our students and faculty have benefitted greatly from the opportunity to interact with the holders of the chair."

This year’s Tun Abdul Razak Lecture will be jointly presented by Ohio University and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). According to Interim Executive Director of the Center for International Studies at Ohio University Ming Li, UiTM is one of Ohio University's key international strategic partners. Forged in late 1960s, this partnership has contributed to the establishment of several programs in UiTM's business school and as well as a cooperative Bachelor of Business Administration with UiTM, Li said.

UiTM, the largest public university in Malaysia, is located in Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, 16 miles west of the national capitol, Kuala Lumpur.

Prior to the Tun Abdul Razak Lecture, President McDavis will honor Prime Minister Najib with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for his achievements in the areas of education, democratization and unity. Prime Minister Najib is the eldest son of the late Tun Abdul Razak, in whose honor the endowed chair was named.

"Through his commitments to educational access, public service and political reform, Prime Minister Najib has positioned Malaysia for continued success and international recognition," said President McDavis. "We look forward to conferring this degree upon a well-deserving partner in Ohio University's quest to foster cross-cultural understanding and awareness."
This year's Tun Abdul Razak Lecture will also feature keynote speaker and longtime Thai politician Surin Pitsuwan. Having recently completed his tenure as the Secretary-General of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Pitsuwan will share his thoughts on the future of ASEAN and its impact on world economy and politics.

"We are honored that this year's distinguished speaker is a man known for his political prowess and diplomacy and is well-known around the world," said current Tun Razak Chair Habibah Ashari.

Originally funded in 1979 by the Malaysian government, Ohio University and 38 corporations, the Tun Razak Chair was the first such position established by any American university with support from a foreign government. Since 1981, 14 professors from Malaysia have worked at Ohio University, teaching courses in their respective areas.

Ashari began her appointment in July 2011. She is the former director of the International Education College at UiTM and a professor of education. Ashari is the first Tun Razak Chair from UiTM and the second woman to be granted this distinction.

"Dr. Ashari has been an active participant in the life of Ohio University and we greatly appreciate all of the efforts that she has made to be accessible to students and faculty who want to learn more about Malaysia and South East Asia," Benoit said.

In addition to the Razak Lecture, each Razak Chair is responsible for organizing a Razak Conference during his or her first year at Ohio University. The most recent Razak Conference, Malaysian Festival: Fashion, Film, Fiction, Food and Fun, took place in April 2012.

Ashari said she began planning this year's Razak Lecture shortly after arriving in Athens with the support of Ohio University, UiTM, Malaysia, the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education, and the Prime Minister's Office.

The partnership between Ohio University and UiTM has made significant contributions to Malaysian-American understanding. Such achievements include the education of more than 2,400 Malaysian citizens, the cross-cultural experience gained by Ohio University students from the past and current Razak Chairs, and the international expertise in Malaysia and Southeast Asia obtained by more than 100 Ohio University professors who have taught and conducted academic activities in Malaysia. The partnership also benefits Ohio University Libraries' Southeast Asia Collection – the finest research collection on Malaysia in North America.

As many as 2,400 Ohio University alumni live and work in Malaysia – the University's greatest concentration of alumni outside the United States. Many Ohio University alumni have become leaders in key sectors of Malaysian society, including business, academia, government and the media. In fact, an alumni chapter is operating in Kuala Lumpur – some 9,500 miles from Athens.

"We are honored that Malaysia is our friend and partner in international education," President McDavis said. "Together, we are fostering the development of world-wise scholars, who will make a positive impact on the future of our countries and our world."