Asia Society Texas Center Honors Princess Zahra Aga Khan with Annual Huffington Award

Award Highlights International Leader’s Commitment to Pluralism, Education, and Medical Access Around the World

HOUSTON, October 15, 2019 — Asia Society Texas Center (ASTC) presented its annual Roy M. Huffington Award to Princess Zahra Aga Khan at The Houstonian on October 10. Nancy C. Allen and the Honorable James A. Baker, III and Susan Baker served as honorary co-chairs for the event.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan, through her work with the Aga Khan Development Network, was honored for her outstanding commitment to advancing healthcare and education around the world. The eldest child of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th and current hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, Princess Zahra serves in various leadership roles within the Network, which comprises numerous private, international, non-denominational development organizations working to improve the welfare and prospects of people in the developing world, particularly in Asia and Africa. Some programs span both the developed and developing worlds. The work of the AKDN is underpinned by the ethical principles of Islam – particularly consultation, solidarity with those less fortunate, self-reliance, and human dignity – but the AKDN does not restrict its work to a particular community, country, or region.

A member of the Board of Directors for the AKDN, Princess Zahra is also a Trustee of the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia and a member of the Board of Directors of the Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Global Centre for Pluralism, and the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat.

“We were so humbled to honor Princess Zahra, and it was an inspiration to hear about the many projects in healthcare and education that she and the Aga Khan Development Network have spearheaded globally,” said Bonna Kol, president of Asia Society Texas Center. “Through her work, Princess Zahra is building hope and trust in a world where both are greatly needed.”

During the program, moderated by Rice University president David W. Leebron, Princess Zahra spoke about her work, including how focusing on girls’ education worldwide has yielded significant results in economic opportunity. She also discussed her view that a liberal arts education can help encourage the development of values, including an ethic of volunteerism. She explained, “It is not learning what to think, but learning how to think, and I think that’s what our education activities seek to instill […] a spirit of inquiry and those values which are the basic human values of pluralism and understanding that makes the quality of life of one’s neighbor better than it is today. Pluralism is not just tolerance — tolerating the other — it’s not just accepting that one lives in a diverse society, but it’s having an active and profound understanding of the nature and culture of one’s neighbors, so much so that one can then learn to appreciate the value that they bring to society.”

When asked about the future of our society, Princess Zahra spoke of her own children and indicated she believes there is much to learn from younger generations. “I think we are living at a time when there is optimism,” she said. “There are things that are happening in our world in medicine, communications, and technology, which are going to have such profound impacts on not only the way we live as human beings but on the way that we interact and we learn.”

The evening also featured a special musical performance by the Master Musicians of the Aga Khan Music Initiative, Homayoun Sakhi on the Afghan rubab and Abbos Kosimov on the Uzbek doira, who were joined by Nitin Mitta on the North Indian tabla. The Aga Khan Music Initiative is an interregional music and arts education program launched to support talented musicians and music educators worldwide working to preserve, transmit, and further develop their musical heritage in contemporary forms.

Following a congratulatory video message from the Bakers, Board Vice Chair Y. Ping Sun, President Bonna Kol, and Honorary Co-Chair Nancy C. Allen presented the Huffington Award to Princess Zahra to a standing ovation. Luminaries in the audience included Muffet Blake and Bob Murray, Leslie and Brad BucherTripp Carter, Anne and Albert* Chao, Molly and Jim Crownover, Lily and Charles* Foster, Glen Gondo*Marty Goossen*, past Huffington honoree Marie Goradia, Michelle* and Hector Herrera, Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, Susan and Ted* Louie, Sultana and Moez* Mangalji, Rosine* and David MatthewsSylvia and Gordon* Quan, Nathalie and Charles* RoffStarlee Sykes and Al Vickers*Lynn Wyatt, as well as representatives from the consular corps.

View more photos on Flickr.

* denotes an Asia Society Texas Center board member


About the Huffington Award

The Huffington Award recognizes leaders who have been a major force on the international stage. Named after Asia Society Texas Center co-founder Roy M. Huffington, the award distinguishes outstanding contributions that have furthered international understanding, welfare, and diplomacy on a global scale. It is the highest honor granted by Asia Society Texas Center. Past award recipients include President George H.W. Bush and former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III.


About Asia Society Texas Center

With 14 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the rest of the world. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.


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