Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco will award Farooq Kathwari an honorary degree during the University's 156th Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 20, 2012.
Farooq Kathwari: Political upheaval separated your family following the partition of India in 1947. From that searing personal experience, you have gone on to become an acclaimed entrepreneur and a respected humanitarian. After university in Kashmir, you came to the United States and entered business with little more than twelve wicker baskets, filled with handicrafts. Your drive and talent took you to the leadership of a dynamic international business, as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ethan Allen. At the same time, you have worked to mitigate the harsh impact of geopolitics on the lives of ordinary people, speaking tirelessly for those without a voice. You have served as chair of Refugees International, dedicated to advocacy for the displaced, and as a director of the International Rescue Committee, providing relief to those caught up in humanitarian crises around the world. You founded and still lead the Kashmir Study Group, to provide a thoughtful basis for reducing tensions in the still volatile region of your birth. For combining corporate leadership with dedication to the highest ideals of global citizenship, we take great pride in conferring upon you the degree of Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa.
FAROOQ KATHWARI grew up in Kashmir, where one of his grandfathers was an art expert and collector of hand crafted objects from Central Asia, China, and India, and his other grandfather was a member of the Maharajah’s court, as well as amerchant who sold pashmina, a fine cashmere wool fabric. In his own way, Kathwari is carrying on his family’s traditions as chairman, president, and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors, a leading interior design company and manufacturer of American furniture.
Kathwari’s family was divided in the political upheaval in the Kashmir region following the partition of India in 1947. As a young boy, he and some of his siblings were displaced and separated for 10 years in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir, while other family members stayed in an Indian-administered area. After returning to the Indian-administered area and graduating from the University of Kashmir in 1965, he came to the United States and enrolled in a full-time evening M.B.A. program at New York University, where he studied marketing.
Shortly after arriving in New York, Kathwari ran a handicraft import business out of his apartment. A few months after arriving in this country, his grandfather shipped him twelve wicker baskets filled with Kashmiri handicrafts, instructing him to sell them and return only the cost of the products. One of his earliest customers was Ethan Allen.
After graduating from NYU, Kathwari worked as a financial analyst and rapidly rose to become chief financial officer for Rothschild, Inc. Meanwhile, he maintained an interest in Kashmiri products, and established a joint venture company with Ethan Allen. In 1980, he merged his company with Ethan Allen and became a vice president. He rose to become president in 1985 and CEO in 1988. Soon afterward, he took the company private. After restructuring the firm, it went public again in 1993. Since that time, annual sales have increased dramatically, and the firm has established a broad international presence.
Growing up in a region of conflict, Kathwari understands how geopolitics can affect the lives of ordinary people. In response, he has been active in public service, often supporting initiatives that strive to improve the lives of people affected by war and other turmoil. He is a director and former chair of Refugees International, an independent organization that advocates on behalf of displaced people, and a director of the International Rescue Committee, which responds to humanitarian crises around the world. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a director of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonpartisan global security think tank in Washington, D.C. In 1996, Kathwari founded, and continues to chair, the Kashmir Study Group, which after extensive interaction with regional leadership, issued recommendations for easing tensions in the area. He is also a member of the President’s Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which works to improve the health, education, and economic status of those underrepresented communities.
Kathwari has received many awards, including an Outstanding American by Choice Award from the U.S. government, the National Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee, the American Muslim Achievement Award from the Islamic Center of Southern California, and the EPIIC Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University.
Tufts will award Kathwari an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.