Audai Shakour, B.A. ’06, lived a life of boundless generosity. His parents, Puja and Isam Shakour, said their son always prioritized others over himself.
After Audai’s untimely passing at the age of 36, Puja and Isam wanted to honor his memory by continuing to spread the same kindness their son embodied throughout his life. In addition to establishing the Audai Shakour Foundation, a nonprofit that supports clean water and social welfare initiatives globally, Puja and Isam also established the Audai Shakour Memorial Scholarship Fund at George Washington University.
There isn’t a more fitting way, Puja and Isam said, to honor their son, who was a dedicated member of the GW community. The scholarship supports need-based scholarships for undergraduate students who demonstrate a commitment to community service, and was matched as part of The Third Century Scholarship Endowment Match: Unlocking Access to Undergraduate Education, doubling the impact on future GW service leaders.
Audai grew up in Mountain View, California, and attended Los Altos High School, where he was the president of the student body association. After visiting GW during a summer trip in high school, Audai was determined it was the only school for him.
“He fell in love with the university and so then, he didn't care, he had only one choice. He wanted to apply to one university only, and that was GW,” Puja said.
Audai’s time at GW were some of the happiest years of his life, Puja and Isam said, describing how involved their son was on campus and the many friends he made. Audai received a degree in international economics while at GW and served as the GW Student Association president in 2005.
“He was very happy. The culture at George Washington, at that time, everyone was very, very close. He and his friends were like one family,” Isam said. He recollected how over the summers, Audai would invite his classmates who had never visited California to stay at their house.
After GW, Audai received a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology at Georgetown University.
Audai continued working on service projects post-graduation, including helping medical students in Sri Lanka pay for their schooling, providing weekly meals to unhoused individuals in Los Angeles and supporting meals for children in Sudan.
“We were so, so proud of him,” Isam said, adding that his son developed a giving spirit from an early age.
When Audai was 8 years old, Isam took him to a bookstore. While Isam was searching for a book he needed for his studies, Audai wandered off. When Isam looked around, he found Audai talking to an unhoused man who held up a sign asking for assistance. Audai begged his dad for money to give to the man.
“Audai told me, ‘Papa, that guy, he hasn’t eaten since this morning.’ So, I gave him some money, and Audai ran to give it to the man. I had never seen Audai so happy,” Isam said.
Puja smiled, remembering another moment from her son’s childhood that embodied his giving spirit.
When Audai was in middle school, he wanted to buy a bicycle and spent months searching for the perfect one. One day, while he was at Costco with his mother, he found a bike that met all his needs.
Puja said there was only one bike left, and it was on display on the top shelf, out of their reach. While Puja went to get a sales associate to retrieve the bike, she told Audai to make sure no one else took it. When she returned, another family was leaving with the bike.
“I asked Audai, ‘Why didn’t you stop them?’ He told me it was because they needed the bike more than he did,” Puja said.
After Audai passed, his parents went through his wallet to start the process of getting their son’s affairs in order. Inside, they found a small card, slightly ripped from wear and tear, with a prayer asking for generosity written on it. The prayer included the following words:
"Teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek rest; to labor and not ask for reward, except to know that I am doing your will."
The prayer encapsulated the way Audai strived to live his life, his mother said.
“In the prayer, he’s asking God to give him the courage to help others without accepting anything in return or without feeling tired,” Puja said. “After we found that card, it was so clear. We knew that everything he had and everything we were planning to give him, we needed to use it to help others.”
Isam and Puja have poured countless hours, resources and energy into running the Audai Shakour Foundation because it’s exactly what their son would have wanted.
The Audai Shakour Memorial Scholarship Fund is another way Puja and Isam are working to ensure their son’s legacy continues. Their hope is that the scholarships will nurture students who will eventually emerge as leaders addressing issues like poverty, food insecurity and inequity.
“We need leaders that are in touch with what’s going on,” Isam said. “We need leaders in the future who will care for others and help improve the lives of those who are impoverished by giving them opportunities. We need leaders who care, who feel it from the heart. This scholarship, we want it to go to someone who wants to make change.”
Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships charts a course to increase access to the transformative power of a GW degree. Learn more about doubling your impact for GW student support through the Third Century Scholarship Endowment Match.