Azamgarh to Potomac and Back
He was born in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, shifted to the US when he was just 15 and now lives in a 40,000-square-foot mansion that has a five-bedroom guest house and a backyard tea house along with reflecting pools on nine acres in Potomac, Maryland, a house that took six years to build. After realising the American dream, Mr Frank Islam, an India-born entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist who is said to be worth USD 300 million, is now ‘investing’ in the education sector in both the land of his birth and his adopted home
He investment is in the future of America and the American dream and in India as well,” said Ms Frank Islam, who came from India as a 15-year old kid, set up the QSS Group, an information technology firm, in 1994, and sold it in 2007 after raising its revenues to over USD 300 million. Today Azamgarh born Islam, 63, and his wife Ms Debbie Driesman, 61, live in a 40,000-square-foot residence in Potomac.
His contributions in India include a USD 2 million donation to the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to build the Frank and Debbie Islam School of Management with an endowed chair and building a technical college for girls in Azamgarh in memory of his mother Qumran Nisan. “As a businessperson I do not make these contributions as charity but as investments for renewing and replenishing the American dream and to building strong futures for the citizens of America and India,” Mr Islam said in an interview.
“I was investing in education in India and the US because it’s the key to opportunity and the bridge to future success for those from all strata of society. The greatest gift all of us can give is the gift of education,” he said explaining his support for numerous scholarships at higher education institutions in the US. “While education is important in America, the needs are even greater in India and that is why I am supporting initiatives in my native land,” Mr Islam added.
As minorities, females and those in rural areas in India are socially, educationally and economically disadvantaged, he was targeting his philanthropic investments to reach those populations. “My intent is to use education as a tool and force to improve the socio-economic status of the underprivileged in India,” Mr Islam said. “My desire is that those who benefit will in turn contribute towards social, political and economic development throughout India.”
An alumnus of AMU, Mr Islam said: “AMU helped shape the lives of many generations. Its leaders have shaped India’s history and its destiny. I would not be the person I am if it were not for AMU education. My giving back to this great institution is a way of beginning to repay the University for what it helped me to become. I owe a sense of gratitude to AMU.”