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News Release

February 6, 2013

Ohio University grants honorary degree to Malaysian prime minister 

Ohio University has a new honorary alumnus: the prime minister of Malaysia.  

Yang Amat Berhormat Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak received an honorary doctor of humane letters from the University on Jan. 15 in a ceremony held in conjunction with the ninth Tun Abdul Razak Lecture.  

Named for the current prime minister’s father, the lecture is a highlight of a unique 32-year partnership between OHIO and the Malaysian government. That partnership also includes the Tun Abdul Razak Chair, an endowed faculty position at Ohio University that works to foster cross-cultural understanding of Malaysia-American perspectives. The current Tun Abdul Razak Chair is Habibah Ashari.  

Among the 350-plus guests at the event were Paul Jones, U.S. ambassador to Malaysia, and the Malaysian Minister of Higher Education, Dato’ Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin.  

Reading Najib’s award citation, Interim Executive Director of the Center for International Studies Ming Li said the doctorate was given in recognition of Najib’s contributions to and leadership and influence in education, as well as his clear and distinctive commitment to the democratization, modernization and transformation of Malaysia.  

“Najib fulfills many of the requirements for the award based on his outstanding record of accomplishments as a national and international leader who deals with society’s most pressing problems,” Li said.  

The degree was presented by Ohio University Trustee David Brightbill and conferred by Li and Bryan Benchoff, vice president for University Advancement and president and CEO of The Ohio University Foundation. 

In accepting the award, Najib said OHIO has been instrumental in educating many Malaysians after the nation gained independence in 1957 and began to develop itself.  

“We needed dynamic entrepreneurs, strong institutions and business-friendly civil servants,” Najib said. “It is against this backdrop that Ohio University’s staff worked with the Mara Institute of Technology in business, accounting and communication. Many of the Institute’s staff and students travelled to Ohio to study.”  

More than 2,400 Malaysians have graduated from Ohio University since 1968, giving it the largest concentration of alumni outside the state of Ohio. Najib said the link between educational institutions could be seen as an enduring sign of cooperation between the East and the West. 

The Razak Chair and the Malaysian partnership have benefited both the university and the southeast Asian nation, said Ohio University President Roderick McDavis.  

“The Ohio University community has benefitted greatly by the contributions of past and current Razak Chair Scholars,” he said. “The research and outreach produced through this partnership have aided understanding of and appreciation for Malaysia across American institutions of higher education.” 

For more information about the Tun Abdul Razak Lecture, visit

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