Afghan refugee pursuing master’s at BU receives inaugural Fr. Larry Hostetter Scholarship

March 13, 2023 | 12:09 am

Updated March 12, 2023 | 4:17 pm

Zakirullah Ahmadzai spent 12 years working with the U.S. forces in Afghanistan before he evacuated due to the Taliban’s takeover of the country. Now he’s pursuing a master’s degree at Brescia University, where he was recently awarded the inaugural Fr. Larry Hostetter Scholarship. This scholarship was established by Ron and Cathy Tisch to serve as a perpetual legacy to the long-time BU president and to provide financial assistance to deserving students.

The scholarship aims to promote socio-economic diversity on campus and encourage recipients to participate in social projects while attending Brescia. Brescia will use the original principal endowment of $250,000 as a renewable scholarship for up to 4 years.

“I was very humbled when I learned of this gift to create a scholarship in my name,” Hostetter said. “It is designed to help students with a financial need while encouraging recipients to use their education in the spirit of servant leadership. I am grateful to Ron and Cathy Tisch for this opportunity to help our students.”

During his tenure working with the U.S. forces, Ahmadzai supervised Afghan laborers and served as a translator during some dangerous missions. 

When the military entered a village, Ahmadzai’s job was to ease tension among the villagers. Initially skeptical, he would assure them that the U.S. forces meant no harm. 

Ahmadzai completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration in Afghanistan in 2013. Consumed with his role in the military, he’s waited 10 long years to head back to school for his master’s.

“Brescia University is one of the best universities in Kentucky, even in the United States, and I am happy to choose Brescia for my master’s,” he said. “When I first got to Owensboro, I told them I wanted to move to Texas to be with my friends and co-workers (from Afghanistan), but I changed my mind.”

Ahmadzai and his wife called the Comfort Inn and Suites home for several months before finding a home. He said the community has greeted them with kindness since day one, soon making him forget about Texas. He now works for Five Star Food Service Inc., a Canteen franchise group, while his wife is an instructional assistant at Apollo High School.

Soon after his admittance to Brescia, Ahmadzai attended a basketball game, where he saw Hostetter, a former acquaintance. He informed Hostetter of his acceptance, and the BU president excitedly asked Ahmadzai if he had received any financial aid. 

“A few weeks passed, and he texted me. He said I have some good news for you,” Ahmadzai said. “‘Someone donated some money, and we want to give you a scholarship for the rest of the semester,’ he told me. It meant a lot to me. Starting from the beginning is hard, so any help goes a long way. This is a great beginning to life in America.”

Ron and Cathy Tisch expressed their hope that other individuals or families would contribute to this scholarship endowment to honor Fr. Larry’s tireless commitment to Brescia over the years.

March 13, 2023 | 12:09 am

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