College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

Mohamed Fakhry overcomes obstacles to earn prestigious scholarship


Photo of Mohamed Fakrhy smiling.
Mohamed Fakhry wants to focus his career in architecture on designing buildings for accessibility. Image Credit: Courtesy of Mohamed Fakhry

Mohamed Fakhry, a graduate student in architecture, has become the first Clemson University student ever to be awarded a prestigious Gavalas Kolanko scholarship for students with disabilities.

“I feel great receiving this scholarship, and it’s a wonderful thing for the School of Architecture,” Fakhry said.

Fakhry, who is deaf, is in the second year of the Master of Architecture program at the Clemson Design Center in Charleston.

Fakhry has overcome enormous challenges in his life. He was born and grew up in Senegal. When he was 11 years old, he was struck with meningitis, putting him into a coma for 10 days.

“When I woke up, my ability to hear the world was gone,” he said.

Ten years ago, he immigrated with his family to the United States and, in his teens, learned English as a third language.

“I’ve had the distinction of teaching for over 30 years and in that time I’ve meet many remarkable students who exhibited exceptional qualities – none more so than Mohamed Fakhry,” said Ray Huff, director of the Clemson Design Center. “He is truly a once-in-a-generation student who possesses extraordinary insights, scholarship and integrity. With an inquiring and restless mind, Mohamed is always eager to learn more, teach more and embrace all that is amazing about this world.”

Fakhry earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Portland State University. It was in Portland, gazing across the city from a towering building, that he resolved to be an architect.

“Back In 2014, I went to visit an ear surgeon, and her office was located on the 10th floor of a beautiful high rise,” he said. “There was a 10-foot wide window inside the office, and from there I could see the whole city of Portland — the bridges, the industrial district, the Willamette River and the hills. From that moment on, I was convinced that going to architecture school was the right thing, and since then I focused on that path forward.”

At Clemson, Fakhry is also a graduate lab assistant, with an array of duties including working with professors in community-oriented design-build projects and assisting in administrative tasks. He gives the University high marks for accessibility.

“I have the best accommodations possible, and with the challenge of online and remote learning, I have been provided with applications and resources that help me join virtual meetings and get everything captioned in real time, which is not only great, but also progressive on many levels,” Fakhry said.

As he looks toward a career in architecture, Fakhry hopes to focus on accessibility.

“Most of all, I want to help people with disabilities have access to more sustainable buildings where they will feel safe and welcome, where they will be able to make friends, be happy, and thrive to contribute in making the world a better place for us all,” he said.

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