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President of Madagascar praises ACU during visit to campus

President Marc Ravalomanana joins the 24 Malagasy students as they sing a Malagasy song for the luncheon audience.

For immediate release
Feb. 7, 2005

Marc Ravalomanana, president of the Republic of Madagascar, visited the campus of Abilene Christian University Feb. 5-6 after sending 24 Malagasy students to attend ACU. 

After touring the campus, meeting with students and university leaders, and speaking at a community luncheon, Ravalomanana said the university was just what he was looking for.

"Your campus is beautiful, your buildings are modern and your technology is state-of-the-art. I see marks of excellence everywhere I turn," he said. "But the thing that most impresses me about ACU is the heart and soul of its people. You are committed to doing your best and at the same time, you are faithful to God. That is very important to me."

During his visit, Ravalomanana met privately with the Malagasy students and ate dinner with them and other ACU friends. He also took a tour of the campus, spoke at a public luncheon in his honor and met with ACU student groups and university administration.

The 24 Malagasy students came to ACU through a unique scholarship program funded by the Malagasy government. The arrangement came about during a visit to Madagascar in 2003 by Dr. John Tyson, ACU vice president for development. Tyson was visiting the country on the first trade mission sponsored by the U.S.-Madagascar Business Council.

"My message was simple.  If the Republic of Madagascar was truly interested in developing the country and making its way out of poverty," Tyson said, "then it would be important to invest in its most precious resource, its people."

Ravalomanana asked Tyson about the university he represented.  Ravalomanana is a Christian businessman and was excited to learn of ACU and its mission to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.

"He said 'That's just the kind of place I'm looking for,'" Tyson said.

"The key to the development of Madagascar is having educated men and women with character and leadership," Ravalomanana said. "That is why I sent these students to ACU.  I trust the administration of this university.  I know they can help us."

Just nine months later, after securing support from World Bank, receiving over a thousand applications and interviewing numerous students, 24 Malagasy men and women left their home nation, most for the first time, and began their college education at Abilene Christian.

The students are from 15 regions of the Republic of Madagascar, and their tuition for the next four years is paid by the government of Madagascar. Students who accepted the scholarship agreed to return to their home nation for at least two years upon graduation, according to Madagascar's Minister of National Education and Scientific Research, Dr. Haja Razafinjatovo.

"We want these students to come back with a different mentality – a mentality of entrepreneurship, a mentality of leadership," Razafinjatovo said. "I think Abilene Christian is one of the best places for them to be for their higher education. A Christian college is a plus for these students."

Madagascar is an island nation of 17.5 million people and was a colony of France for nearly 70 years, gaining independence in 1960. Ravalomanana was Mayor of Antananarivo, the capital city, and was elected president in 2002. The main industries of Madagascar are agriculture – fishing and forestry – and textiles.

"Abilene Christian University is an ideal opportunity for this country," said Mamy Rabe, a businessman in Madagascar and president of the Madagascar-U.S. Business Council. "There are not enough universities with Christian values, and those values – honesty, integrity, character – are what we need in business and in our nation."

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