May 21, 2024

Remembering Professor Sallama Shaker, ‘A Remarkable Mentor and Friend’

Sallama Shaker with students
Professor Sallama Shaker with CGU students at the UN in 2018. On the far right is Nirshila Chand.

Sallama Shaker was many things during her illustrious career. Trailblazing diplomat. Middle East expert. Accomplished academic and researcher. Mentor. Friend.

Professor Shaker, a Senior Fellow of Middle East & International Studies at CGU, passed away May 10 in Cairo, leaving a remarkable legacy. She was the first woman to be appointed Egypt’s assistant minister of foreign affairs for the Americas. She served as ambassador to Canada, consul general at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, and economic and political counselor at the Embassy in Turkey. Her research highlighted the historic importance of women in Islam.

As a visiting professor in the School of Religion at CGU, she used her expertise, connections, and fundraising acumen to build the Coptic Studies program. During her time on campus, she also took students to the United Nations to experience the importance of international diplomacy. “You cannot just study theory in the classroom,” she said. “You have to apply theory to practice.”

“She epitomized a true dedication to our students and their careers,” interim Provost Michelle Bligh said. “From taking them to the UN to sharing her passion and aptitude for diplomacy to modeling the importance of finding common ground and alignment across diverse constituencies to her commitment to working toward peaceful solutions, she was truly one of a kind. Her grace and eloquence will be dearly missed.”

Former students and colleagues at CGU shared their thoughts about Professor Shaker and how she touched their lives. Here are some of those reminiscences:

Linda M. Perkins
University Professor and Director of Applied Gender Studies
Ambassador Sallama Shaker was a dear friend and cherished colleague. She and I instantly bonded over her sincere interest in our then-applied Gender Studies Program (now Applied Gender Studies -AGS) and our newly established Women’s and Gender Studies Certificate Program. She and I team-taught a TNDY course in the Summer of 2016 titled Changing Gender Roles — A Global Prospective. The class was very successful and drew a diverse and international student population of all gender identities. Interest in global gender studies grew and our WGS certificate program and international students entering AGS increased. By this time, Ambassador Shaker began focusing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in our classes, and with her contacts, she took a group of CGU students to the United Nations annually. Dr. Shaker was devoted to CGU and its students. Even after she left CGU, she continued to Zoom in and work with students on global issues. I had the pleasure of visiting with her for Christmas of 2022 and New Year’s of 2023 at her home in Cairo. She will be greatly missed.

Mark Chapin Johnson
Member of CGU Board of Trustees and professor of political science at Chapman University
“I met SallamaShaker in the fall of 2005 as she considered leaving Yale to teach at CGU. Little did I know that she would become one of the most significant people in my life. She was one of the kindest, elegant, most considerate, and extraordinary people I have ever been blessed to know. She didn’t just teach me everything I could imagine about the Middle East; she showed me the true value of diplomacy and compassion. Hers was a life of meaning and giving. She leaves a legacy of having touched many of us in profound and existential ways. The 17 years I knew her as a close friend were rich beyond measure. I will deeply miss her warm smile, gentle hug, and warm presence. She was a living example of all CGU strives to be.”

Melissa Rogers
Associate Professor, Division of Politics and Economics
“Dr. Shaker was a prolific and highly effective advocate for Claremont Graduate University. We worked together frequently as we served on academic committees for our highly talented students. These students would go on to tenure track professor positions, government positions at the highest level, and innovative private sector employment in the United States and around the world. Every single student we worked with admired Dr. Shaker for her accomplishments and her scholarly feedback. The feeling was mutual! She was their best possible advocate, using her vast network to provide opportunities during which our talented students could exhibit their talents.

“I also knew Dr. Shaker as a close friend. She was such a positive person—it’s hard to describe how joyful she was and how each interaction with her lifted your confidence and your spirits. She made all of us feel important and special.”

Former student Nirshila Chand
DrPH 2022
“In the fall of 2017, Dr. Shaker, took four students to the United Nations to meet with foreign dignitaries. I was selected as one of them! It was eye-opening and life-changing. In the span of one week, we traveled the world at the UN, meeting ambassadors from Armenia and Trinidad and attending the Economic and Social Council meeting. We had an amazing time, and the four of us were invited back to the UN to attend the Economic and Social Council [Youth Forum] meeting in December 2017. I had the opportunity to interact with young innovators from around the globe committed to improving their societies. I came back understanding global health and the commitment to ‘Leave No One Behind.’”

Yi Feng
Luther Lee Jr. Memorial Chair Professor in the Division of Politics and Economics
“So many CGU students benefited from her teaching, supervision, and guidance. She personally took students to the United Nations to gain experience in the world’s developmental issues and she always helped students connect academic theories with critical problems in the real world. The students she taught and trained at CGU have gained invaluable insights and professional skills from her. Her passing away is a tremendous loss to us. As recently as several weeks ago, before she was hospitalized, she had been working closely with CGU’s students on their dissertations.  Dr. Ambassador Sallama Shaker should be happy to see her legacy continue in our community and among her students.”

Former student Zeyad Kelani
MA, International Studies, 2018
PhD, Computational Analytics & World Politics, 2021
“She was a remarkable mentor and friend whose influence shaped my journey at Claremont and elsewhere. Her dedication to her students knew no bounds, and her impact extended far beyond the classroom. Her wisdom was a beacon in navigating the complexities of life, both academically and personally. As I reflect on the profound loss we have suffered, I am reminded of the countless lives Ambassador Dr. Shaker touched with her kindness, compassion, and unparalleled dedication. Her legacy will endure in the hearts and minds of all who were fortunate enough to know her, and her absence will be very much felt.”