by Susan Safa
As far back as I remember, my father, Bahram Safa, has described his college years at Abadan Institute of Technology with such excitement and detail, I feel as though I attended. He speaks with pride about getting a Lafayette education in Iran.
When I attended the 2012 reunion in Las Vegas, I learned about the importance of this college and how it has impacted my life and the lives of many other children of graduates. The bond between the Iranians and the Americans and the success they have all achieved demonstrates the way that education can help move countries forward.
AIT was modeled after Lafayette, with a blend of Persian culture. The professors established a six-year general-engineering program and extracurricular activities. The basketball team
was always the champion in Abadan. The student council enabled students to practice the principles of democracy and free election for the first time in Iran. The biweekly AIT post, as well as drama and art societies, provided a forum for students to freely express their views and talents.
Some professors lived in faculty apartments in the dormitory. They were available to the students 24/7 for guidance and advice. The students learned about and embraced the American culture brought by the professors who opened their homes.
While instilling good work ethics and honesty, the professors also taught students to pursue their dreams and be passionate about what they do. My father once took some faculty children to see a Walt Disney movie. He says he never dreamed that 50 years later, he would be doing civil engineering work on a project in California that indirectly benefits Disneyland. Many graduates continued their education in the U.S. and Europe and have made significant contributions to Iran and to the world as researchers, engineers, scientists, businessmen, managers, and professors.
The work ethic has been passed down to the next generation as children of graduates also are succeeding globally. They all carry the same attitudes and spirit as their parents. Lafayette’s involvement in Iran has had a global impact by instilling a dedication to hard work, refined manners, and great respect in graduates that will continue to manifest for generations to come.
Lafayette and AIT have proven that people of different cultural backgrounds can work together to make the world a better place. This model and the sense of family started by Lafayette in Iran set a precedent for global success.
Susan Safa, of Irvine, Calif., an author and occupational therapist, was born in California where her parents moved after leaving Iran during the 1979 revolution.