A little late but more about the Grinnell College Alumni Award I received last June. I wasn’t able to attend the (25th) reunion at which the award was given; the American Embassy in Kathmandu turned down my application for a travel visa. My buddy Michael Hanna accepted the award on my behalf at the ceremony and even arranged for an amazing photo of him and the attendees holding the award. All of those in the background, with raised hands, I was told, were classmates of mine cheering!
The College then mailed the award to me which I received on July 16, 2018 (see image at the top). Reproduced below is the citation read out at the ceremony by the award presenter.
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Growing up in Nepal, our next award winner started his life with only the most basic educational options. A quarter century later, this alumnus is doing all he can to make sure the next generations of Nepalese children can achieve more in life by contributing to access to free and sustainable education as well as to the improvement of the quality education in the country.
After earning a chemistry degree at Grinnell, this alumnus taught science to students across the world, including stops in Azerbaijan, Vietnam, and Malawi, to name a few. In 2013, during his last teaching position in Qatar, he was imprisoned under false accusations of insulting Islam. His friends, Grinnell network, and thousands of strangers signed an online petition, launched social media campaigns, and applied other tactics to free him.
While in jail, he met several other Nepalese natives that were working in Qatar as migrant workers. Those interactions further cemented his desire to return home to work in the education of the marginalized. Shortly after his release, he raised more than $30,000 to begin serving children in rural Nepal.
For most of the past six years, this alumnus has served as education program director for Community Members Interested, helping implement education related projects in public schools. He also helped establish Social Business for Education ventures, which are income-generating projects that benefit the community. The ventures have included vegetable gardens and community-based fishery. Profits help support the school as well as members of the community.
He’s also an inspirational speaker, inspiring young Nepalese to dream, contribute to humanity, and peace in the world. In 2014, he was invited to Grinnell as a speaker at the Rosenfield Program about Human Rights and Education of Marginalized People of Nepal. In addition, he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree at Grinnell’s 2014 Commencement and the 2014 Lori Ann Schwab ’95 Alumni Grant.
For epitomizing the Grinnell spirit in many ways, I’m delighted to present this Alumni Award to Dorje Gurung ’94.