Humayun Ahmed (হুমায়ূন আহমেদ) | Nice Alumni Series

Chemist, Writer & Film Director | Class of 1983

Born: Kendua Upazila, Netrokona District, Bangladesh

In spite of the more than 7,500-mile distance, Bangladeshis are well aware of North Dakota State University. Fargo and NDSU are held as a near mythical place in their collective imagination because of its depiction by the greatest writer of their generation, Humayun Ahmed. 

Humayun recalls his first encounter with North Dakota in his book, Hotel Graver Inn:

I have reached a new country—the prairie land of Laura Ingalls Wilder—the state of Dakota. I arrived at four in the morning and it was dark outside. The sun has not risen yet. The cold wind was whistling at the open field of Hector Airport. I was trembling with cold. I was not about to feel cold, as it was fall, winter was yet long to come.

In 1983 Humayun completed his PhD in polymer chemistry from NDSU. The experiences he had as a student inspired him to write about his time in Fargo, noting Dunbar Hall specifically in his writings. To this day, students from Bangladesh walk reverently through Dunbar Hall, honoring the cultural legend who had been there before them.

After graduating, Humayun returned to teach chemistry at Bangladesh’s most prestigious educational institution, the University of Dhaka. But his career as a professor was short-lived, as his creativity led him into one of the most prolific writing careers Bangladesh would ever see.

His stories were so impactful that in the early 1990s, as a TV series he had written reached its finale, people took to the streets in protest over the fate handed to one of its main characters. They were begging the producers to spare their beloved character’s life as if the whole drama was reality.

With more than 200 published works of fiction and non-fiction, eight films produced, and 40 songs composed, it is easy to understand why he is so revered in Bangladesh. Nobel laureate economist Muhammad Yunus considered Ahmed to have earned a place among other great Bangladeshi literary figures saying:

Humayun's works are the most profound and most fruitful that literature has experienced since the time of Tagore and Nazrul.

Humayun Ahmed’s legacy lives on in the Bangladeshi students who follow in his footsteps and choose to study at NDSU.

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Credits: Story by Scott Meyer & Dane Johnson / Illustration by Izak Moleterno

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Posted on October 14th, 2020 by Dane Johnson in News and Stories