Tribute to Dr. Sharif Fayez, Founder of AUAF


It is with great sorrow that the American University of Afghanistan announces the passing away of AUAF’s Founder Dr. Sharif Fayez (1946-2019). Dr. Fayez had a long and distinguished career as an educator and scholar, dedicating himself during the last two decades of his life to the development of higher education in Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban regime. He served as the first Minister of Higher Education during the transitional government, from 2001-2004. It was during this period that he undertook plans for the establishment of a new, American-style university, the institution that became the American University of Afghanistan. He served as AUAF’s founding president in its first year and continued to assist each successive AUAF president to lead the institution until his death on Friday, the 8th of February, 2019.

Dr. Fayez was from the village of Seeyoshan in Herat province. On finishing primary school in his native province, he received a scholarship to study at Avicenna High School in Kabul. He studied at Kabul University from 1966 until 1970, and then received another scholarship to pursue graduate education in the USA in 1970. After studying briefly at Columbia University, he transferred to Northern Colorado University where he took a Masters degree in English Literature. He completed his PhD in American and Comparative Literature at the University of Arizona in 1978. His doctoral dissertation examined the work of the US poet Walt Whitman and the Afghan-born poet Rumi.

Dr. Fayez returned to teach in the Department of English at Kabul University after completing his Ph.D.; but he fled in 1979 to escape persecution from the Soviet-controlled regime. After teaching for four years in the English Department at Ferdowsi University in Iran, he accepted a position as visiting scholar in 1984 at the University of Arizona. During the 1990s he was self-employed, working as a writer, journalist, interpreter, and translator, living in the USA.

Called back to Afghanistan in 2001, he spent the last two decades of his life assisting in the development of Afghanistan’s system of higher education. He contributed not only to the founding of AUAF, but also to that of other new institutions: Kabul Education University, Bamiyan University, and the new campus of Herat University. He organized many international conferences and contributed regularly to national debates as an essayist and journalist. He was the author of numerous translations and scholarly publications, and received several awards, including honorary doctoral degrees of humane letters from the University of Arizona and the University of Oldenburg in Germany.

It is with great respect, affection and gratitude that Dr. Fayez will be remembered by the American University of Afghanistan’s alumni, students, faculty and staff. He was a passionate advocate of the ideal of liberal learning and the value of free inquiry. He espoused a firm conviction that Afghanistan’s future depends on the education of its young people. He facilitated cooperation among Afghanistan’s diverse peoples and believed firmly in their potential to be citizens of both Afghanistan and the world.

AUAF President Kenneth Holland said on the occasion of Dr. Fayez passing that “AUAF has lost its founding visionary. We have also all lost one of our greatest friends. His vision will live on through one of his precious children, the American University of Afghanistan.”

Dr. Fayez is survived by his wife and two children.



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