(MENAFN - Arab News) It is a university that has helped launch more than a thousand careers, producing some of the best engineers, architects, scientists, managers, computer specialists and other leaders. The King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) occupies a central place in the academic world of Saudi Arabia.
The university is currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1963. According to the Gregorian calendar, the 50th anniversary celebrations should be in 2013 but according to the Islamic calendar, the 50th anniversary is this year.
As part of the celebrations, an international symposium was held on the sprawling campus for two days on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The papers and keynote presentations led to a series of thought-provoking discussions. Khaled Al-Sultan, the university's rector, was the happiest person. Chairing and moderating a couple of sessions, he made many interesting observations about the university.
Among the most important presentations were the ones by Assistant Minister for Petroleum Affairs Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, Minister of Higher Education Khaled bin Mohammed Al-Anqari, Saudi Aramco President and CEO Khaled Al-Falih, King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology President Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel, Georgia Institute of Technology Provost Rafael L. Bras and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) President Nam Suh.
The most interesting fact is that both Khaled Al-Falih and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman are alumni of the university and they recalled their student life on the campus. Prince Abdul Aziz delighted the audience by sharing with them some of his memories. He got his BS in Industrial Management in 1990.
"Getting into this university was not easy. My friends had alerted me about the tough entrance tests so I was naturally very tense and nervous. I still remember how frightened I was when I took the entrance test. What if I failed? Will I qualify? Those were tense moments. I was delighted beyond words when I was told about my acceptance at the university. It was joy and total relief," he said.
The prince said he had always aspired to be at KFUPM. "I did not want to go abroad on a scholarship. I wanted to study within the Kingdom and my father (then Riyadh Gov. and now Defense Minister, Prince Salman) suggested that I try KFUPM. It was - and still is - the best university," he said.
"I am a very proud to be a graduate of this university. It set me on the path to gaining an immense amount of knowledge. It prepared me for the roles that I eventually played. I have unforgettable memories associated with this institution having spent 10 long years here," he said. "There were students from all parts of the Kingdom, the north and the south, west and the east, I met them all here in the dorms. Everyone had a different lifestyle but we all had one goal - to gain as much knowledge as possible," he said.
Prince Abdul Aziz also spent time at the university as manager of the Economic and Industrial Research Division at the university's research institute.
Al-Sultan, the rector, said the university's Dhahran location was both symbolic and practical. "As industry grew up around the original oilfield, the demand for technical professionals skyrocketed, and this university was created to fulfill that demand, and it also set out to achieve a higher purpose - helping Saudi Arabia reach its true potential," he said. From its modest beginning as a specialized college with 67 students, the university has grown into an internationally known center for education and research.
Its faculty is drawn from the best and brightest of many nations. And its thousands of graduates have achieved positions of trust in all sectors of the Kingdom's increasingly diverse and vibrant economy. "All of this success validates the university's commitment to excellence in teaching research and community service," said Al-Sultan.
Getting into the university is very tough and it is said that for every 20 students who apply, only one is chosen.
"The student who earns a place at KFUPM knows that in exchange for his hard work and intellectual curiosity he will receive the finest possible preparation for his chosen career," said Al-Sultan. "Our programs meet the highest international standards."