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MIT alumnus backs Poverty Action Lab with 3 major endowments

MIT today announced that alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel has committed a substantial gift in support of the Poverty Action Lab in the Department of Economics. The gift will endow a professorship, two fellowships, and a research and teaching fund, all in the areas of poverty alleviation and development economics. All three endowments will be named in honor of Jameel's late father, Abdul Latif Jameel.

MIT President Susan Hockfield said, "We are deeply grateful to Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel for his extraordinary commitment to MIT. His support will ensure that the Poverty Action Lab can fulfill its great potential to make a significant difference in the international fight against poverty." Hockfield also announced that MIT plans to mark this generous gift by naming the Poverty Action Lab for Jameel's father.

Located in the Department of Economics, the Poverty Action Lab at MIT was founded in 2003 with startup funds from the economics department and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. The mission of the lab is to translate research into action that helps the lives of the poor in their communities. It is the only research center in the world devoted to combating global poverty by rigorously testing the effectiveness of poverty programs through the use of randomized evaluations. The lab applies the same level of rigor to the measurement of poverty alleviation programs as is routinely used to test the effectiveness of medications.

"The lab is already having a big impact in the field of development economics," said Professor Bengt Holmstrom, head of the economics department. "With this very generous gift, I feel confident that the lab will end up being one of the great initiatives at MIT."

Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel received his S.B. in civil engineering from MIT in 1978. He is president of the Abdul Latif Jameel Co. (ALJ), which was founded by his father in 1945. In 1955, the company was granted sole distributorship for Toyota vehicles in Saudi Arabia, which the company has maintained ever since. Today, ALJ is the largest private independent distributor of Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the world with operations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan and China. The group activities also cover the areas of electronics, technology 'startup' investments, real estate development, financial and marketing services. ALJ employs more than 9,800 people worldwide and this year is celebrating 50 years in association with the Toyota Motor Corp.

Jameel is a dedicated philanthropist who supports many programs related to poverty alleviation, job creation, economic development and efforts to promote understanding among different cultures and religions.

In 1994, ALJ made a donation to MIT to establish the Abdul Latif Jameel-Toyota endowed scholarship fund to honor the company's founder. To honor the long-standing relationship between Toyota and the late Abdul Latif Jameel, students receiving the scholarship are called Jameel-Toyota scholars. The scholarship provides financial aid to undergraduates from 28 Middle Eastern and Asian countries who could not attend MIT without financial assistance.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 19, 2005 (download PDF).

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