Chancellor's Office

Distinguished Leadership Award

The Distinguished Leadership Award at the University of Michigan-Dearborn recognizes and honors individuals who have made a significant contribution to the welfare and development of the institution for an extended period of time. This contribution may be service to the campus, financial support, political support or any combination of these.  The contribution must positively impact UM-Dearbornís ability to further its mission of providing service to the southeastern Michigan community and its residents.

The award is bestowed at the annual Commencement ceremonies in spring and winter each year.  Below are the Awards bestowed at the Spring 2008 Commencement Ceremony on April 27, 2008.

Arthur Kochoff (CASL '92 and '96)

Arthur Kochoff is the embodiment of lifetime learning.  From his earliest days on the Ford assembly line to his time spent earning multiple degrees at UM-Dearborn, Mr. Kochoff has demonstrated a spirit for life and education that few can match.

Arthur Kochoff grew up in an immigrant neighborhood just northeast of downtown Detroit and began his work life on the line at Ford Motor Company in 1939.  His ascent in the company began with his acceptance into its tool and die apprenticeship and was enhanced by his completion of an engineering degree from the General Motors Instituteówhile working full time.  He went on to earn four associate degrees from Henry Ford Community College and  earned his first undergraduate degree from UM-Dearborn in 1992, when he was 75 years old.  Three more undergraduate degrees later, Mr. Kochoff is still a student on campus, currently enrolled in the MALS Program.  And if that isnít enough, he also speaks five languages fluently.

His sharp intellect and interest in life are fed by his continued presence on campus for both attending classes and using the Wellness Center Ė both of which put him in close contact with students.  Dr. Jackie Vansant notes that the Modern and Classical Languages Department has benefitted greatly from Mr. Kochoffís generosity and his belief in the necessity of learning languages and cultures other than oneís own. Certainly his enthusiasm models the importance of lifelong learning for all the students with whom he comes in contact.

In a similar vein, his philanthropy on campus is a model for our students and alumni.  Arthur  Kochoff and his wife, Mary, have given $1.4 million to UM-Dearborn.  In 2000, they made their first substantial gift of $250,000 to equip the Language Lab in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL) building.  That gift, a portion of which is endowed to continue to generate support, helped create a state-of-the-art Language Lab in the new building.

Their later gift Ė a $1 million combination cash and bequest intention Ė was used to establish the Mary and Arthur Kochoff Endowed Chancellorís Scholarship Fund.  This was the first $1 million gift from an alumnus in the history of UM-Dearborn.  It generated  tremendous excitement for The Michigan Difference Campaign Kick-Off in the spring of 2004.  This scholarship is to be used for full tuition support for the most needy students, supporting the institutionís own commitment of access to education for all qualified students.  The Kochoffs have also made consistent contributions to the Art Museum Project, the Deanís Strategic Initiative Fund in CASL and other scholarship funds on campus.

Arthur  Kochoff has been an invaluable addition to the UM-Dearborn campus community and is well deserving of this yearís Distinguished Leadership Award.

Ismael Ahmed (CASL '75)

Ismael Ahmed was appointed by Governor Jennifer M. Granholm as director of the Michigan Department of Human Services in September 2007.  He leads the state's second largest agency.  Its nearly 10,000 employees administer a $4 billion-plus annual budget serving 1.5 million medical assistance cases and 1.2 million cash and food assistance cases.

A nationally recognized advocate for children, poor and underserved populations, Mr. Ahmed is an expert in immigration and social reform.  He co-founded the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) 36 years ago, and was appointed executive director in 1983 where he was responsible for overall operations of the organization to include the executive administration of the Arab American National Museum (AANM).  ACCESS is the largest Arab-American human services organization in the United States offering over 90 different programs with more than 900,000 client contacts annually.

During his tenure with the Michigan Department of Human Services, Mr. Ahmed was named the 2008 Arab American of the Year by ACCESS and the 2007 Diversity Business Leader award from the Arab American Chamber of Commerce.

For three consecutive years Mr. 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 chairs the Immigration Task Force and the Cultural Exchange Network for New Detroit.  He has served on a number of governing boards for southeast Michigan organizations, including Eastern Michigan University's Board of Regents, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, United Way and New Detroit: The Coalition, and University of Michigan-Dearbornís Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). 

In his role on the Citizens Advisory Committee, Mr. Ahmed supported the Chancellor in defining the direction of the campus.  He volunteered his time on a number of occasions to speak to UM-Dearborn students, modeling the importance of the role of nonprofit organizations alongside the business community. While no longer on the CAC, Ishmael continues his close connection to UM-Dearborn as a counselor of the Chancellor.

Mr. Ahmed is also one of our regionís most respected and innovative promoters of world music.  He even had his own show for many years on WDET Public Radio.  He was also a founder of the Concert of Colors, which features several performers from across the globe and annually draws an audience of over half a million people to downtown Dearborn.  Mr. Ahmed is a contributing author to Arabs in America: Myths and Reality and has written for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation publication Arab American Political Participation in the United States.

Mr. Ahmed graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 1975 with a bachelorís degree in secondary education and a minor in sociology.  His participation on the Citizens Advisory Committee has been invaluable.

For his long history of service to our region in so many ways, we are pleased to name Mr. Ahmed one of this yearís Distinguished Leadership Award recipients.