International Student and Scholar Services is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 International Parents of the Year award: Dr. Khalid Joudi and Dr. Maysoon Yasin. They are the parents of recent University of Iowa grad Dr. Kawther Khalid Ahmed, who just received her Ph.D. in pharmaceutics in August. Dr. Ahmed is now a post-doctoral scholar here at the University of Iowa while her husband, Ali Al-Jumaili, finishes his own program. They have two daughters and a little boy here with them in Iowa City.
Dr. Maysoon Yasin and Dr. Khalid Joudi
Dr. Ahmed’s family is from Iraq. Her mother, Dr. Yasin, has a bachelor’s degree in science/biology from the College of Science at the University of Baghdad as well as both a master’s degree and Ph.D. in enzyme cytochemistry from the University of Manchester in England. She worked as a college instructor in the College of Medicine in the University of Basrah and then in the College of Dentistry at the University of Baghdad.
Dr. Ahmed describes her mother as being very talented with sewing and knitting, creating “pieces of art.” She fondly remembers one of the beautiful outfits her mother made for one of her older sisters, later handed down to one of Dr. Ahmed’s daughters.
Her father, Dr. Joudi, has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado- Boulder and a Ph.D. in fluid mechanics from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) in England.
Dr. Joudi later worked teaching and supervising graduate students in mechanical engineering. He also served as department chair in the College of Engineering, University of Basrah, as dean and founder of the College of Engineering, University of Anbar, as President for Al Nahrin University in Baghdad, and minister consultant at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Iraq. Dr. Joudi authored a fundamental book that is used as a textbook in all colleges of engineering in Iraq and some universities in other Arab countries, and received numerous recognitions and awards for his achievements and contributions to the field.
Being a very talented engineer, Dr. Ahmed’s father loved fixing and making things for their house. Their coffee tables were made by him and he had a full set of carpenter tools, plumbing tools, and gardening tools which he often put to use. “I basically do not ever recall needing to get any handy man to do anything in the house, it was always my father's pleasure to work in the house.”
Both parents loved gardening. Dr. Joudi preferred planting vegetables and fruits while Dr. Yasin preferred the beautiful side of gardening, putting pretty, colorful flowers and plants all around the garden and house.
Both of Dr. Ahmed’s parents loved travelling. During their time in England, they traveled all over Europe and when they were done with their studies in the 1970’s, they drove from Manchester,England to Baghdad, Iraq, passing through as many countries as possible. They were very educated tourists, always liking to try new food and make all efforts to taste the culture of the country or city they were visiting. During their time in Iowa, they visited Dr. Ahmed and were able to see many parts of the U.S.
Dr. Ahmed describes her parents as holding strong beliefs about helping others. “Both my parents strongly believe in helping people in need and with the latest crisis of displaced people in Iraq, my father used to buy food items and go to displaced family camps to deliver them,” she said. “After finishing their study in England, my parents came back to Iraq to serve as faculty members in the University of Basrah and this was in 1980 just before the start of the war between Iraq and Iran which continued for eight years. I was born in 1981 and then a year later my sister Basma. We had an older sister at that time so that made us three kids. The war was not easy and my parents had to keep us safe physically and emotionally which was not an easy task.
Dr. Kawther Khalid Ahmed
“In spite of the war, my parents made sure we enjoy what every kid would want to enjoy including birthday parties, vacations, and play time with parents and friends. In 1987, my parents managed to move us to Baghdad as a safer city during the war. We had another sister in 1990 and then the war of 1990 followed by the economic sanctions. My parents were university faculty so our living status was very good but the sanctions took this privilege. My father worked extra time to keep us living in a good status. We were all encouraged to excel in our study and we all made high achievements.”
“When I decided to come to the United States for graduate studies, my parents could not be supportive any more than they were. Through their experience living and studying abroad, they helped me adapt and accommodate to living abroad with two kids. When one comes to study overseas, there is so much to think about and prepare for. At some points I would panic and feel lost, it was because of my parents that I survived the challenging experience of studying and living abroad. I have been here for five years now.”
Sadly, soon after Dr. Ahmed arrived in Iowa City to begin her graduate studies, her father, Dr. Joudi, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Her parents were initially reluctant to tell her, fearing it would be difficult news for Dr. Ahmed and her family. It was only after her parents came to visit two years later that she became aware of what was happening to her father, as they could not hide the impact it had on him.
Soon after her parents returned to Iraq, Dr. Ahmed’s younger sister, Basma, was diagnosed with brain cancer and later passed away in 2014. Dr. Ahmed states, “It was only because of my parents’ continuous support that I stayed here to finish my Ph.D. and be there for my kids. This is not easy to do given that they needed support themselves so the work they were doing is indeed exceptional.”
Unfortunately, further tragedy was to impact the family when her father, Dr. Joudi, passed away in January 2016 after a five-year battle with prostate cancer. Dr. Ahmed admits she felt weak and unable to continue her studies here, but her mother – even while dealing with the loss of her husband - again made sure Dr. Ahmed felt the support to stay and finish her program.
“Living thousands of miles away from family is hard. Being unable to go back for visits makes it even harder. It is only because of my parents’ continuous unlimited support that I managed to continue my study here and succeed.” That is a wonderful tribute to exemplary parents who always put their daughter as first priority, even in the face of their own hardships.