Muhammad Abdur Razzaque (center), with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (left) in 2010, heads the Republic of Bangladesh Ministry of Food and Disaster Management.
Eighth in a series highlighting this year’s recipients of the Purdue University College of Agriculture’s Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award. The award honors mid-career alumni who have a record of outstanding accomplishments, have made significant contributions to their profession or society and have exhibited high potential for professional growth. The series will conclude tomorrow. The nine honorees will receive their awards Friday (March 1) during a 3:30 p.m. EST convocation in the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom. A 2:30 p.m. reception, open to the public, will precede the ceremony.
Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, PhD ’83, has risen from the role of a freedom fighter, struggling to help Bangladesh earn its independence from Pakistan in 1971, to become minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh Ministry of Food and Disaster Management.
Razzaque has worked to reduce disaster risks while enhancing community resilience. Razzaque started his professional career as a scientific officer of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, the apex organization of the National Agricultural Research System, and was promoted to the rank of chief scientific officer. He also was national coordinator of integrated farming system research and development.
“It is clear that Dr. Razzaque has had an enormously positive influence on food production, food security and the ability of the People's Republic of Bangladesh to withstand natural disasters,” said his nominator, Joe Anderson, head of Purdue’s Department of Agronomy.
• Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? My major professor, Marvin Swearingin, advisory committee member Lee Schweitzer and Vic Lechtenberg had the most impact on my career. From them I got a great deal of inspiration and many stimulating ideas. I am greatly indebted to Drs. Schweitzer and Lechtenberg for passing on their invaluable knowledge of crop physiology, for upgrading my understanding and inspiring me to undertake research on soybean physiology.
• Which part of your visit back to campus in March are you most looking forward to? Apart from being nostalgic about my memories at Purdue, I am looking forward to seeing several things. Among them are: the evolutions of Purdue's focus on research and innovations in agriculture; the present capacity of agronomic research and how well the university labs and fields are equipped with modern technologies; Purdue's involvement as a center of excellence in research and innovation in the global initiatives for agriculture, food security and nutrition; seeing how Purdue researchers have positioned themselves in agro-research with the emergence of climate change and disaster impacts; how Purdue is connected to global policy-shaping debates, given the essence of strengthened networking at the local, regional and global levels. Most importantly, I look forward to renewing a network for myself with the new generation of scientists and researchers.
• Why did you select Purdue as the place to continue your education? I was awarded a World Bank Scholarship to pursue studies in agronomy. I applied to several U.S. universities and was accepted at Purdue, among others. I consulted with my friends and colleagues to find out which one would be the best school for me. When I came to know that one of our senior scientists from NARS earned his PhD from Purdue in entomology, I decided to seek his advice. Like many others, he spoke very highly of Purdue. He said Purdue’s standard of education is very high and that the execution of academic modules is extremely disciplined and tough. He thought it might be difficult for me to successfully complete the study and suggested I go elsewhere. I instantly took it as a challenge and decided to go to Purdue.
• What do you miss most about your college days at Purdue? I am still emotionally attached to the Purdue campus. I don't know why, but quite often while I am driving I find myself wondering about the many events I enjoyed while I was on campus. In the evening, my wife and I would take a walk and enjoy eating an ice cream cone from the Baskin-Robbins store near our apartment. I miss all those moments.
• Were you a good student when you were at Purdue? I don't claim to have been a very good student. During my undergraduate studies, I was a student activist struggling for democracy, rule of law and liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistani exploitation. Eventually in 1971, I fought in the war of liberation as a freedom fighter. Thus, my attainment at the undergraduate level was not to the desired level. However, at Purdue I dedicated myself to study to cope with Purdue’s high standard. I took 48 credits of my own volition and the requirement was 33. My grade-point average was 5.48 (out of 6.00).
• What was the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? Dr. Swearingin once told me, “Mr. Razzaque, you are at Purdue and in the U.S.A. not just to learn in the classroom and library, which you could do probably from your library back home or from many other countries. I consider seeing as learning, too. It is an important part of your education here in America.” Accordingly, he took me to different Purdue Extension research stations, where I assisted him in several experiments for different agro-ecological zones and on-farm trials for dissemination of technologies.
• What is the best advice you have ever given? I always emphasize reshaping thinking in view of new environments. Harness the best out of the given opportunities. I ask those near and dear to me to work for making a difference. I urge all to place human welfare above all other agendas.
Read about other 2013 Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award winners.