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In This Issue

       

Wichita State helped Ihssane Mounir find the American dream; now he’s giving back

Photo of Ihssane Mounir
Ihssane Mounir ’94, ’96 attributes much of his success to Wichita State. Through his gifts, he wants to provide future students the opportunity to say that, too.

You’d have to search far and wide to find a graduate of Wichita State University who is a bigger champion of his alma mater than Ihssane Mounir.

Mounir’s unshakeable position is that Wichita State profoundly influenced his professional success and, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, the person he has become and the values he embraces.

“That’s why I’m giving back, really,” says Mounir, senior vice president of sales for northeast Asia for Boeing. “I am convinced that had I chosen another school, I would not have been as successful as I am today. In fact, I don’t think I would have stayed in the United States. Because I think I would have discovered a very different country from what I experienced in the Midwest.”

It could have gone very differently. When Mounir got off a plane in Wichita at the age of 17, speaking virtually no English, he handed his taxi driver a slip of paper with the address for WSU’s Intensive English Language Center. The problem was, it was midnight. The taxi driver dropped Mounir off at a motel that didn’t provide a sterling first impression of his new home.

The next day, he learned a mix-up had resulted in his residence hall room being given to someone else, and there were no others available. He lived for three months in Wheatshocker Apartments, which, at the time, was not owned by the university. The stories Mounir has about this period are just this side of hair-raising.

Finally, he got a room in Fairmount Towers, and his college life began in earnest. Mounir earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1994, then a master’s in 1996. Along the way, he studied with College of Engineering faculty he reveres to this day.

“We were involved in all sorts of hands-on learning, and it was primarily driven by the faculty,” says Mounir, who lives near Seattle with his wife (who he met at Wichita State) and four children. “That gave us an opportunity to apply what we were learning, put it into practice, write a paper about it and then defend it. Those experiences helped to shape who I am today. It was everything I hoped for when I came to Wichita State.”

Though Mounir has been supporting Wichita State with financial gifts for several years, he recently decided to increase his giving to help provide today’s students with the kind of experiences he had. Mounir’s contributions to the College of Engineering will provide faculty support and student aid. It also will help underwrite the Design-Build-Fly competition, which offers the kind of learning-by-doing that Mounir says gave him an edge upon graduation.

Mounir grew up in Morocco but recognized while in high school that if he wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, his best opportunities would be in the United States. He chose WSU because its Intensive English Language Program was fully integrated into the school.

He threw himself into student activities and organizations and worked 20 hours a week in jobs mostly connected with the College of Engineering.

One of his most memorable experiences — and something that revealed the Midwest values he came to cherish — was accepting an invitation to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with a couple who lived in Newton.

“They were the most hospitable, the kindest couple I ever met,” he says. “The experience of staying with them for four days was eye-opening for me. It gave me a glimpse of the true values this country was founded on — unselfishness, strong work ethic, a desire to help those around you. Those are the values rooted in the Midwest. There are no substitutes for them.”

Mounir stays connected to Wichita State, visiting about twice a year. He serves on the College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Board as well as the advisory committee for aeronautical engineering. He recently accepted an invitation to sit on the WSU Foundation’s National Advisory Council. He has been a Sam Bloomfield engineer in residence and delivered the 2012 commencement address for the College of Engineering.

He began his career with Boeing in 1997 as an engineer, moving several years later to the business side, selling jets in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Russia.

It’s a career for which Wichita State prepared him well.

“The hands-on experience, the priceless chance to work closely with faculty, the values deeply rooted in Kansas — when harnessed, those attributes can deliver incredible results,” Mounir says. “I want to help provide that experience at Wichita State and replicate it for students today and into the future.”

 

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