Antipoverty Entrepreneur

Microfinance pioneer slated for commencement
January 31, 2010
Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus. Levy Bruno/SIPA

Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker, economist, champion of the poor, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, will deliver this year's commencement address.

Yunus, a former economics professor at University of Chittagong in Bangladesh, is considered the father of microfinance, a system of lending money to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. In 1983, he founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which helped poor people escape poverty by offering them loans and teaching them sound financial principles.

In 2006, he and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below." Three years later, President Obama awarded Yunus the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

"Recognizing that entrepreneurship is a fundamental human gift, Muhammad Yunus has created a viable business model for the world's poor, using his academic training to unleash human potential around the globe," says President Richard H. Brodhead. "He will give our graduates an inspiring example of education's far-reaching power."