Vol. 5 Num 344 Tue. May 17, 2005  

Lest We Forget
Dr M A Naser
A pioneer in engineering education

The first death anniversary of Professor Dr. Mohammed Abu Naser, former Vice-Chancellor, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), former Chairman, Bangladesh University Grants Commission (BUGC), former Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, BUET and recipient of the prestigious Ekushey Padak, was observed on 12th May 2005.

Dr. Naser was born on April 2, 1921, in the village of Damla of Srinagar Upazila, Bikrampur in the Munshigonj district. His father Mr. M. Ismail Ali Khan and mother Abida Begum were respected members of the village community. Dr. Naser started his early education at the famous Kazir Pagla A. T. Institution, Kazir Pagla, Louhajong in Munshigonj and passed the Matruculation Examination in the First Division in 1937. He passed the Intermediate Examination from the B. M. Collage, Barisal. In 1942 and 1943 he received the B.Sc (Hons.) and M.Sc. degrees, respectively, in Chemistry from the Dhaka University. He then went on to study Chemical Engineering at the Bengal Engineering College at Shibpur, West Bengal.

While at Shibpur he got a scholarship to study for his M.S. in Chemical Engineering at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. U.S.A. This indeed was a rare accolade for him to be selected for such a scholarship in undivided India, when Muslims were less favourably considered. While in America he traveled extensively to New York City, Michigan, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and Rochester, NY to visit KODAK, which is still headquartered there. He was an avid photographer and he owned a Kodak camera and took lots of B&W pictures that are neatly captioned and fills up so many albums to this day.

On his return home and after brief stints at the Industries Ministry and The Directorate of Technical Education, he came back to his favourite job of teaching at the Ahsanullah Engineering College, later which became BUET. In 1955 he went to London under a fellowship from the Nuffield Foundation to study for a year at the University of London. This time he took his family with him and rented a house in the Bourough of Hammersmith in London. I still remember the excitement my wife, our three year old son, M. Shahriar Zaman, myself and my wife's elder brother Dr. Khan Hasan Zahid (he had come to visit us from USA) felt, when we visited the house in 1986 (my family accompanied me on a Commonwealth Post-doctoral Fellowship to the UK).

In 1962 he left again for the USA to study for his PhD. It took him four years to finish. First he spent about two years at Columbia University, then he went to Texan A & M to complete the rest of his PhD. In 1986 when we visited the USA for the first time, we again made it a point to visit the apartment that Dr. Naser, rented while a student at the Columbia University. The very next day after he completed his PhD he got on a plane to Dhaka.

He was made the Vice-Chancellor of BUET in 1970 and continued holding his position after the liberation of Bangladesh.f He is credited with holding the first Convocation of BUET in 1973. This event is considered a milestone in the history of BUET as well as the nation. Justice Abu Syed Chowdhury, the Chancellor of the University and the then Honorable President of the People's Republic of Bangladesh distributed certificates to 2224 graduate and 39 post graduate engineers and architects on the occasion. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mijibur Rahman the then Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh was the Chief Guest on the Opening Ceremony of the Convocation.

In 1975 Dr. Naser became the Chairman of the Bangladesh University Grants Commission, a position he held till his retirement in 1980. He also served as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Bangladesh Institute of Technology, Khulna, later which became Khulna University of Engineering and Technology.

In recognition of his contributions to education he was awarded the Ekushey Padak in 1987. In 1988 he was made Professor Emeritus, in the Chemical Engineering Department of BUET, a position he held till the day of his death. Also in 1988 he was honoured with the Bikrampur Foundation Gold Medal and in 1995 with the Abdul Hakim Bikrampuri Memorial Medal. On the occasion of 50 years of Chemical Engineering in Bangladesh, he was made a Life Member of the Chemical Alumni Association of BUET in 2003.

My eldest son Mohammed Shahriar Zaman a student of the Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering at BUET, sums up our felling when he says "whenever I walk into BUET it reminds me of Nana Bhai and makes me feel proud that he dedicated more than fifty years of his life for the betterment of Engineering Education in Bangladesh" Dr. M. A. Naser, to us all is a wonderful example of a simple man who rose from modest surroundings to occupy one of the prestigious educational positions in our country, through sheer dedication, honesty and hard work.

Dr Mohammed Muniruzzaman is Professor, Department of Physics, Jahangirnagar University.