Shazi Visram

Your remarkable life story is a testament to Nelson Mandela’s insight that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Your immigrant parents—a Pakistani mother trained as a physician and a Tanzanian father—settled in Alabama after a stop in Toronto and became motel proprietors. They taught you that hard work, talent, and persistence were the only assets required to pursue your dreams, a lesson you have brought to life in ways they could have scarcely imagined. Indeed, as founder of Happy Family, an organic food empire that has revolutionized access to healthy food for children, you are an example of a civic-minded entrepreneur that now serves as an inspiration to countless young people who seek to emulate your success. After studying visual arts and history as an undergraduate at Columbia College, you enrolled at Columbia Business School, intrigued by the notion that you could put your creativity to use by starting your own business, perhaps one that would make a difference in people’s lives. A conversation with a friend seeking healthy food options for her twin infants sparked your imagination, and you were on your way. One great idea—making organic children’s food available on demand by putting it in a pouch—combined with your considerable talent for innovation, turned your company, Happy Family, into a global success story. By forgoing venture capital to finance your business, and instead seeking investors from among the very people who would be your customers, you ensured that Happy Family would retain its mission-driven focus. Partnerships forged with UNICEF and other child advocacy organizations attest to the wisdom of this approach and have placed you at the center of worldwide efforts to end child hunger. For your gifts as a leader, your optimistic spirit, and your determination to change the world for the better, Columbia is proud to call you one of our own and to honor you with the University Medal for Excellence.