Along with his Islamic faith, a focus on helping others has defined Imtiaz Ahmad’s life purpose.
Snapshot: Meet a Community Elder
At 80, Imtiaz Ahmad says he is “still working on becoming a better human being.”
When he retired in 2012 from a distinguished academic career, Imtiaz and his wife, Rita, moved to Caledon to be closer to their children, who live in Toronto. In Caledon he has continued the volunteer work that has been a touchstone of his life. He is now the international service chair of the Palgrave Rotary Club, a position that involves supporting worldwide humanitarian projects.
As chair, for example, Imtiaz learned of the plight of Egyptian children who were dying of congenital heart disease because treatments were inadequate. So in partnership with Rotary Clubs elsewhere, he guided the Palgrave club to join a project that gives these children a new lease on life.
Born in India but raised in Pakistan, Imtiaz first came to Canada to do graduate work in electrical engineering at the University of Ottawa. University computer science departments were nonexistent at the time, but computers were the coming thing – and the focus of his electrical engineering studies.
Several years later, with doctorate in hand and married to Rita, a Franco-Ontarian, he moved back to Pakistan to resume his career. But Imtiaz was uncomfortable with the social norms he encountered there. So in 1970, he and Rita, now with two children, returned to Ottawa, where he was welcomed to a faculty position at his alma mater.
With his computer skills in great demand, he moved to the University of Windsor, where he and Rita celebrated the birth of their third child, and then on to Eastern Michigan University in Ann Arbor, where he is now professor emeritus.
“The commute from Windsor to Ann Arbor could be tedious, but it also gave me thinking time,” he says.
Along the way, Imtiaz experienced a revival of his Muslim faith and its focus on helping others. He served as president of the Windsor Islamic Association and president of the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers of North America. He was also instrumental in creating the Islamic Society of North America, one of whose goals is to foster understanding of Islam.
Calling himself a dreamer, he says that he never felt denied opportunities in Canada because he was born elsewhere. “As humans, our real value comes from what we do for others,” he says.