Ismael Ahmed and Arthur Kochoff will receive honorary degrees at UM-Dearborn May 3 commencement ceremony

March 27, 2009

DEARBORN / March 27, 2009---Two University of Michigan-Dearborn graduates will receive honorary degrees at the campus’s commencement ceremony on May 3.

Honorary doctor of laws degrees were approved for Ismael Ahmed and Arthur Kochoff by the U-M Regents at their meeting in Ann Arbor on March 19.

Ahmed, who received his bachelor’s degree from UM-Dearborn in 1975, is the director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. Kochoff, who began taking classes at UM-Dearborn in the 1980s when he was nearing retirement from a nearly 50-year-long career at Ford Motor Co., has earned four bachelor’s degrees from the campus.

“Ismael Ahmed has distinguished himself as one of the most effective and respected community leaders in southeast Michigan,” according to UM-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little. “As an advocate for civil rights, as a tireless provider of social services to Michigan residents, and as a committed advocate of multicultural understanding, Ismael Ahmed richly deserves this recognition.”

He was one of the co-founders of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in the 1970s, and became the organization’s executive director in 1983. During his tenure, ACCESS grew from a small storefront operation to a major organization in the Detroit area, with affiliates in 11 states, and more than 90 programs serving as many as 900,000 clients per year.

In September 2007, Ahmed was appointed by Governor Jennifer M. Granholm to lead the Department of Human Services, the state’s second-largest agency, with nearly 10,000 employees and a $4 billion-plus annual budget.

He has received numerous awards for community service efforts, including the New Detroit Bridging the Gap, the Detroit News Michiganian of the Year, and the University of Michigan Alumnus of the Year.

A nationally-recognized expert in immigration and social reform, Ahmed has been a guest speaker at the Foreign Ministers Meeting of the League of Arab States speaking on U.S. and Arab relations. He has served on a number of boards including Eastern Michigan University's Board of Regents, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, and New Detroit. He also has been a member of the UM-Dearborn Citizens Advisory Committee.

At age 92, Arthur Kochoff has been an integral part of the campus community since the mid-1980s. After retiring from a 49-year career as a manufacturing engineer, primarily for Ford Motor Company but also at General Motors and Tucker Automotive, Kochoff began taking classes at UM-Dearborn at age 75.

“Arthur Kochoff truly embodies the spirit of lifelong learning,” according to Little. “I can think of no other alumnus who represents what this institution means to this region—access to the excellence of University of Michigan for non-traditional and employed students.”

Kochoff began his career on the assembly line at Ford in 1939. After completing a tool-and-die apprenticeship, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the Detroit Institute of Technology in 1952, while working full time.

A long-time resident of Dearborn Heights, Kochoff earned three associate degrees from Henry Ford Community College, before enrolling at UM-Dearborn.

“His sharp intellect and interest in life has been fed by his continued presence on the campus for both classes and for regular exercise at the Wellness Center—both of which put him in close contact with students,” Little said. “It is his presence on campus and enthusiasm that models the importance of lifelong learning.”

Kochoff and his wife, Mary, have made significant gifts to UM-Dearborn. In 2000, he donated the funds necessary to create and equip a language lab; a more recent gift established the Mary and Arthur Kochoff Endowed Chancellor’s Scholarship. The largest room in the campus’s University Center is named for the Kochoffs in honor of their philanthropy.

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CONTACT: Terry Gallagher

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