The Simon Fraser University community deeply mourns the loss of Dr. Djavad Mowafaghian, who dedicated his efforts to giving and improving the lives of children and communities around the world. Dr. Mowafaghian passed away in July 2022 at the age of 95, leaving behind a legacy of kindness and compassion. He will be dearly missed.
Growing up in Iran, Dr. Djavad Mowafaghian lost his father when he was an infant. As a young child, he would listen to his mother’s lessons about love and charity, and take note of her continual gestures of kindness towards friends and strangers. He learned from her that every person has inherent value, and deserves to live a full and healthy life, with access to education. He carried her teachings with him in business and in life, always leading with generosity, humility and humanity.
After studying electrical engineering in Tehran, Dr. Mowafaghian established one of the country’s largest general contracting companies, overseeing the construction of major hospitals, factories, housing developments and roads throughout the country. To date, he has built 26 elementary, middle and technical schools in Iran to educate children in the poorest areas of Tehran, including one specifically for girls living with physical disabilities.
Dr. Mowafaghian moved to Europe in the early 1980s, but did not stay for long. Following a visit to Vancouver, he was captivated by its people and rich cultural diversity. In 1987, he decided to take a leap and make British Columbia his home. He devoted his resources to enriching the landscape of the province, working with organizations such as SFU, the University of British Columbia, BC Children’s Hospital, Lions Gate Hospital, and more.
Based in North Vancouver, the business leader and humanitarian went on to establish the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation in 2003 to improve the wellbeing of children—as Dr. Mowafaghian once said, “children are one of most important investments we can make.” The Foundation’s longstanding partnership with SFU began a few years later and has had a significant impact on research, teaching and learning across the university—from enhancing global health and citizenship to building community through arts and culture.
The Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation’s support of SFU has enabled large-scale research on diverse topics such as HIV prevention strategies for youth, health inequities in early years, and helping young first-time mothers in need. It also made possible many important initiatives and scholarships that promote equity, diversity and inclusion, including the world’s largest study on culture, trust, gender and leadership, as well as other critical programs that support refugees, newcomers, and people living in poverty.
Since its inception, the Foundation has stayed true to Dr. Mowafaghian’s bold vision of a brighter future for all, making meaningful, and often transformational, gifts to advance medical research and training, address the far-reaching effects of homelessness in Vancouver, and improve quality of life for people with disabilities, as well as help strengthen access to education and health around the world.
As an exemplary Canadian, Dr. Mowafaghian’s many honours include the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, both the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada, as well as honorary degrees from SFU and UBC. In recognition of his incredible philanthropy, he also received the Humanitarian Award from the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education, and the Giving Hearts Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Dr. Mowafaghian has left a lasting impact on SFU and its communities, having given generously and widely to uplift others near and far—and proudly living the values that his mother instilled in him so long ago. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family and everyone at the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation.